There’s a new and frightening disease threatening just outside US borders once more.
This time, it’s not the bird flu or SARS.
The name might sound funny, but the disease is not. It’s already spread around most of the world, and has most recently turned up in many different Caribbean countries. Given the fact that the Caribbean is just a stone’s throw away from Louisiana shores, and the significant travel to and from the Caribbean from points all along the Louisiana coast, it pays to understand this insidious threat.
Not So New
While the name chikungunya might be new to you, the disease itself is not that new. It was first discovered back in 1952. At the time, it was found only in Tanzania, and a few other countries in Africa. Since that point, it’s spread throughout most of the southern three-quarters of the African continent, into the Middle East, through India, into Asia and even penetrated into Europe. With its arrival in the Caribbean, Louisiana residents need to take this health threat seriously.
States throughout the country are gearing up to handle potential outbreaks, both imported cases and possible native outbreaks if the disease is able to spread and infect local mosquito populations . What should Louisiana residents know about chikungunya?
What Is It?
Chikungunya is a viral infection. It’s spread to humans from the bite of infected mosquitoes. Like other similar diseases, if a mosquito bites an infected human, it becomes a host for the virus, and then spreads it to anyone else it bites. The virus is not transmitted in any other way, including by skin contact or by air.
What Does It Do?
Chikungunya is an insidious threat. In most cases, it is not fatal, but there are cases where it can contribute to death. The most common symptoms of the disease include:
- Sudden fever onset
- Severe joint pain
- Muscle pain
Rarer symptoms and complications can include:
- Heart complications
- Eye complications
- Neurological complications
- Gastrointestinal pain
As a note, joint pain associated with chikungunya is often severe and debilitating, and can last from a few days to weeks. Extreme cases can last months. In fact, the name chikungunya comes from the Kimakonde language, and means “to become contorted”. It stems from the appearance of those who have contracted the disease and are suffering from joint and muscle pain. However, some patients report only mild symptoms, which can make an accurate diagnosis difficult. They can seem flu-like, and many people mistake the disease for a cold or flu.
How Is It Treated?
Currently, there is no treatment for chikungunya, nor is there any preventative vaccine. The only prevention method that works is to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds from around the home and yard, wear appropriate clothing when outdoors, and use mosquito repellant. The disease is transmitted by mosquito bites, so any steps that help protect you from being bitten can help protect you against chikungunya.
Long sleeved shirts and long pants are recommended when outdoors at any time, and any exposed skin should be protected with mosquito repellant. Other forms of repellant can also help, including repellant candles and torches. Pesticides aimed at killing mosquito populations can also help, and many US states are gearing up for large-scale application of pesticides.
If you’re concerned that areas around your home or yard are mosquito breeding grounds, Fischer Environmental can help. Our certified experts will inspect your home, yard and other nearby areas and determine if preventative action needs to be taken. Call us today at 800-391-2565.
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