First Chikungunya Cases Confirmed in Florida

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquiring a blood meal from a human host at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. The mosquitoes carry chikungunya virus. (JAMES GATHANY / CDC VIA AP)
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquiring a blood meal from a human host at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. The mosquitoes carry chikungunya virus. (JAMES GATHANY / CDC VIA AP)

Chikungunya has been reported in a Florida man and woman who had not recently traveled, health officials said Thursday — the first indication that the painful virus has taken up residence in the United States.

Health experts had said it was only a matter of time before the virus, carried by mosquitoes, made its way to the U.S. It’s been spreading rapidly in the Caribbean and Central America. It’s infected 350,000 and killed 21.

There have been other U.S. cases but all have been among people who had recently traveled to affected regions.

“Seven months after the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya was recognized in the Western Hemisphere, the first locally acquired case of the disease has surfaced in the continental United States,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

Florida health officials later said there were two cases: a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County.

“Since 2006, the United States has averaged 28 imported cases of chikungunya (chik-un-GUHN-ya) per year in travelers returning from countries where the virus is common. To date this year, 243 travel-associated cases have been reported in 31 states and two territories,” CDC said.

“However, the newly reported case represents the first time that mosquitoes in the continental United States are thought to have spread the virus to a non-traveler. This year, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reported 121 and two cases of locally acquired chikungunya respectively.”

Chikungunya is not usually deadly, but it can cause a very bad headache, joint pain, rash and fever. Its name in the Makonde language, spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique in Africa, means “that which bends up,” because patients are often contorted with pain. They can spend weeks in bed, racked with pain.

The virus only arrived in the Western Hemisphere in December, on St. Martin.

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SOURCE: MAGGIE FOX 
NBC News