Chikungunya disease spreads in Florida
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07/22/14 Lisa Kauffman
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Chikungunya, DOH Manatee, Ron Cox, Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Rays

A second case of Chikungunya was confirmed in Manatee County on Friday. So far the mosquito-borne illness has been reported 82 times in Florida.

Ron Cox is the Director of Epidemiology for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County.

"Chikungunya Fever is an illness that's caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. In other words the mosquito has to be infected with the Chikungunya virus and bite somebody, and that's the way the infection in spread. It is characterized primarily by a high fever, generally greater than 102 degrees, fatigue, severe joint pain, mainly in the arms and legs. And the other symptoms we sometimes see are headaches, muscle pain, back pain, and a rash."

Is Chikungunya becoming more prevalent in Florida?

"Yes it is becoming more prevalent in Florida. This year we have seen an increase in imported cases in Florida. This is because of people traveling between Florida and the Caribbean where the disease is exists in epidemic form. This is a disease that’s epidemic in the Caribbean. People are acquiring the virus in the Caribbean, and then returning to Florida where it is diagnosed."

How serious is this illness?

"Chikungunya Fever, it doesn’t…it doesn’t often result in death. In other words, death is scarce, you hardly hear about death. But the symptoms can be disabling, and some people may get severe complications. There is no treatment to cure the illness. It is self limiting, it will run its course, and it will subside on its own. However, if a person suspects that he or she may have Chikungunya Fever, it is very important the person sees a doctor immediately so that the doctor can manage the symptoms. The doctor can help avoid major complications such as severe dehydration from fever."

What are some of the best ways to prevent this?

"Well here we need the public’s cooperation to prevent the spread of the Chikungunya virus. The mosquito that spreads or transmits the Chikungunya, it lays its eggs in water. So we need the public to go into the yard and remove all man made water holding items, large and small. Everything from wheel barrels to bottle caps, because the mosquitoes can lay its eggs in as little as a tablespoon of water. So you can imagine what that mosquito can do. The type of mosquito that transmits the Chikungunya virus, they bed between dawn and dusk. So it’s very important that everyone wears insect repellent with long clothing covering the arms and legs. Everyone also needs to be sure that any open windows or doors, they must have functioning screens to keep the mosquitoes out.

"What we want to tell the public, if they have any symptoms of Chikungunya, they can, they should, consult with a health care provider or a doctor immediately, and also protect themselves against mosquito bites."

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Joel Peralta may also be added to the list of those with Chikungunya. Peralta believes he may have contracted the disease while he went home to the Dominican Republic during All-Star Break last week.

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