Chikungunya a viral infection new to the Americas makes you really sick. And is hard to spell.

By ACSH Staff — Mar 05, 2015
Infectious diseases have been the focus of many news stories in the past year. Sometimes, the news is good, such as a cure for hepatitis C. Sometimes it is very bad

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.37.12 PMInfectious diseases have been the focus of many news stories in the past year.

Sometimes, the news is good, such as a cure for hepatitis C. Sometimes it is very bad the emergence of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), an increasingly common hospital infection that is caused by highly resistant strains of bacteria, and has a 50 percent mortality rate. Not to mention Ebola and this year s ineffective flu vaccine.

We certainly don t need another one to worry about, but it showed up uninvited. Chikungunya a formerly tropical disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes has decided that it enjoys being on different continents. These are North and South America.

The headline from a news article in MedPage Today pretty much says it all: Chikungunya: From Zero to 1.24 Million. Once-rare virus now causing thousands of cases a week in the Americas.

Chikungunya is painful to spell and pronounce (chik-un-GUHN-ya) but it is far more painful to catch.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, showed up in the Caribbean (St. Martin) in December 2013, at which time it was suspected to be dengue fever (another formerly tropical contagion). There were 26 cases. In June 2014, 42 cases were reported in Florida. Now, according to a report from the Pan-American Health Organization, there are more than 1.2 million cases in the Americas.

There is no vaccine to prevent it, and no specific treatment. And, it is not something that you want to catch. According to the CDC, symptoms include: Fever, polyarthralgia (pain in multiple joints) which can be severe and debilitating, headache, muscle pain, arthritis, conjunctivitis, nausea and vomiting, bumpy rash, decreased white blood cells, and decreased platelets.

And, it may be even worse than this. The latest CDC report on emerging infectious diseases finds that in some cases it might not go away: [The virus was found to cause long-lasting musculoskeletal and rheumatic disorders. In other words, rheumatoid arthritis something you do not want to have.

How can you prevent it? The CDC suggest the following:

Use air conditioning or window/door screens

Use mosquito repellents on exposed skin

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

Wear permethrin-treated clothing

Empty standing water from outdoor containers

Support local vector control programs

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, I was surprised and relieved to find that the CDC included the one truly useful method to stop this: the last one, local vector control programs, which is another way of saying spraying insecticides to reduce the mosquito population.

We at ACSH are no strangers to this issue. We have weighed in on the foolishness of avoiding spraying to control mosquito populations, and were responsible for getting a village on Long Island to abandon a long-standing non-spraying policy.

For more on what can happen when chemophobia gets in the way of sound public health policy, you can read Dr. Bloom s Science 2.0 op-ed titled Environmentalists Almost Killed My Friend here.