While rarely fatal, Chikungunya can produce a severe fever and excruciating joint pain usually lasting for at least a week. Some studies (cite) indicate significant arthritis-like sequelae can persist for months or even years post-infection.
With an incubation period of between 3 and 7 days, and the enormous amount of international travel to, and from, the Caribbean, the concern is that this virus will soon migrate to other areas that also have a favorable climate and the right kind of mosquitoes.
Brazil is particularly at risk this summer with the FIFA World Cup, something we discussed yesterday.
But then, so is the United States, and even parts of Europe (Italy saw a mini-epidemic in 2007 when just one infected traveler started a chain of infection that eventually touched 300 people).
The good news, at least in most of the United States, is that most of us live and work in air-conditioned spaces, and live in regions that maintain pretty good mosquito control programs, and so we aren’t as apt to be continually exposed to (and bitten by) mosquitoes as people living in the Caribbean.
But as a native Floridian, I can assure you that it is pretty much impossible to totally avoid feeding our unofficial `state bird’.
The state of Florida is concerned enough that it has issued warnings to the public, and is actively Preparing For Chikungunya. In March the CDC held a Chikungunya Webinar and last December they released a CDC HAN Advisory On Recognizing & Treating Chikungunya Infection.
No one knows if Chikungunya will spread rapidly in the United States, like West Nile Virus has over the past 15 years, or produce infrequent and highly sporadic outbreaks, as has Dengue.
But given its rapid global expansion over the past nine years, no one in public health is taking the threat lightly.