NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mosquito-borne virus that has been rapidly spreading in the Caribbean is now also spreading in the United States.
As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported, Florida health officials have confirmed the first two U.S.-acquired cases of the chikungunya virus, or “chik-V.”
The two patients had not recently traveled outside the United States. Scientists believe a mosquito bit someone with the virus, then bit someone else, infecting that person.
“The virus is unusual because something like three-quarters of the people who are bitten do have symptoms after infection,” said Dr. James Crowe, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The Florida patients are a 41-year-old woman and 50-year-old man. Both are said to be doing well.
Chikungunya virus is not usually deadly. Symptoms include fever and joint pain, as well as muscle aches, headaches, joint swelling and rash.
“Typically, people are better and well after a week, but sometimes their joint symptoms go on for weeks and months,” Crowe said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been more than 240 cases of the virus reported in the United States so far, but those people are believed to have been infected outside the country. Health experts say there is no need to panic, but it’s always a good idea to try to avoid mosquito bites.
“Use bug spray if you’re going out,” Crowe said. “Use long sleeves and pants when you’re in areas with mosquitoes.”
Researchers say there is currently no treatment to prevent chik-V, but several vaccines are currently being developed.
Meanwhile on Long Island, three more mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus. The samples were collected July 9 — two in Lindenhurst, one in North Babylon — said Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner James Tomarken.
That brings the total number of positive mosquito samples to six this year in Suffolk, in addition to two birds. No humans or horses have tested positive.
“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” Tomarken said in a statement. “While there is no cause for alarm, we urge residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”
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