First off, chikungunya is pronounced chicken-goon-ya. It is an arthropod vectored disease found primarily in the tropics, and it is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. This virus causes a debilitating illness, most often characterized by fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain.
Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most patients feel better within a week, but joint pain can persist for months for some people.
There have been 12 reported cases in Virginia, but all were acquired while traveling. In fact, the only four locally transmitted cases in the continental U.S. were reported in Florida, but 99 percent of all locally acquired cases in the U.S. were in Puerto Rico.
The take-away from this is that individuals are not likely to get this disease at Fort Lee, unless they travel to the Caribbean or another area in which it is prevalent. One of two vectors known to transmit the virus happens to be the Ades albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito) – one of the most common mosquitoes to the area – so, in the future, chikungunya could be knocking at our door. In the meantime, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers’ Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
before traveling to a new area – especially in the tropics.
Finally, what can be done to prevent any cases from happening at Fort Lee?
Wearing proper personal protective equipment is priority one when it comes to vector-borne disease prevention. PPE for mosquitoes is permethrin-treated uniforms, long pants and sleeves and insect repellent on exposed skin. Most ACUs are pre-treated with permethrin, but home kits are available for personal clothing. Always wear PPE when outdoors, and when camping overnight.
In the case of Asian Tiger , eliminating the habitat is also key. These mosquitoes are called “container breeders” because they can breed in very small amounts of water, such as the rainwater that collects inside of an old tire, clogged rain gutters, or an empty trash can. Always check your front and back yards for containers that may have collected rain or sprinkler water, empty out the water, and store them in such a way that they do not fill with water.
If you have questions or would like further reading material on chikungunya, visit the CDC website.