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June 9, 2014

Chikungunya virus case confirmed in Indiana

An Allen County resident who recently traveled to the Caribbean has tested positive for the chikungunya virus. Transmitted by mosquitoes, chikungunya has been found in multiple Caribbean countries. Cases have been identified in travelers returning from this area, but local transmission has not been found in the United States. The virus has also been seen in Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific areas.

“We expected the epidemic in the Caribbean to cause some travel-related cases here in Indiana,” said Jennifer Brown, DVM, state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health. “We encourage all Hoosiers to take precautions against mosquito bites at home and while traveling.”

While the Chikungunya risk for Hoosiers who have not traveled to the Caribbean is low, state health officials recommend the following to protect against mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis:

  • avoid places where mosquitoes are biting
  • apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin
  • install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home
  • wear pants and long sleeves when possible, especially if walking in wooded or marshy areas

“Chikungunya is just another example of the dangers posed by disease-carrying mosquitoes,” said Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan, M.D. “Whether you are planning a trip to the Caribbean or a picnic in your own back yard, please remember your best defense is to wear insect repellent and stay inside as much as possible during peak biting times.”

Most people exposed to chikungunya will develop symptoms. Chikungunya does not often cause death, but the symptoms can be severe. The most common symptoms are high fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Most patients feel better within one week, but the joint pain can persist for months in some cases. People who develop these symptoms after traveling to the Caribbean or other areas where chikungunya is found should contact a health care provider immediately.

“If you have recently traveled to the Caribbean and believe that you have symptoms of chikungunya, visit your health care provider and tell them about your travel history,” said Dr. Brown.

People at risk for more severe cases include newborn infants, adults over age 65 and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Treatment consists of supportive care for relief of the fever and joint pain. There is currently no vaccine.

Unlike a West Nile virus infection, chikungunya can be transmitted from a sick person to a healthy person by the bite of an infected mosquito. Infected persons are advised to avoid exposure to mosquitoes during the first week of illness. Chikungunya is not transmitted from direct person-to-person contact.

State health officials encourage Hoosiers to take the following steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito-breeding grounds:

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