NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — First there was West Nile virus. Now health experts are warning about another virus carried by mosquitoes.
The chikungunya virus — or “chik-v” — has sickened tens of thousands of people throughout the Caribbean with high fever and severe pain. Now Americans are coming down with it, too, and there’s fear that it will spread, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported.
“This is not a fatal infection; it’s just a miserable infection,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Preventive Medicine.
Cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed in 15 states, including New York. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 cases have been reported in Florida alone.
“The chikungunya fever will last for three, four, five days,” Schaffner said. “You’re miserable. Then you’ll get better. We can treat you symptomatically.”
So far, all of the infected Americans have contracted the virus in parts of the world where it is common. But researchers are worried that mosquitoes in the U.S. could pick up the disease by biting infected people.
“There’s a concern that people from the United States who go to the Caribbean might be bitten by infected mosquitoes and then bring this illness, this virus, back to the United States,” Schaffner siad. “We have the kind of mosquito that will transmit this virus here in the U.S.”
Prior outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Late last year, the virus was found for the first time on the Caribbean islands, where more than 100,000 people have been sickened.
“So far, we have no evidence that there are U.S.-bred mosquitoes that have become infected,” Schaffner said.
There is no vaccine to prevent the virus, which is rarely fatal.
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