| MIAMI, July 17
MIAMI, July 17 The first two locally acquired
cases of a painful mosquito-borne viral illness, chikungunya,
have been reported in Florida, the health officials confirmed on
One case was reported in Miami Dade County and the other in
Palm Beach County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working
closely with the Florida Department of Health to determine how
the patients contracted the virus, officials announced.
Chikungunya has surfaced widely across the continental
United States but until now the cases have not been transmitted
by local mosquitoes, which raises the threat. All prior reported
cases involved recent travelers to the Caribbean, where the
virus is raging.
"The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical
Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks
posed by this and other exotic pathogens," said Roger Nasci,
chief of CDC's Arboviral Diseases Branch.
"We encourage everyone to take precautions against
mosquitoes to prevent chikungunya and other mosquito-borne
diseases by draining standing water, covering your skin with
clothing and repellent and covering doors and windows with
screens," said Dr. Anna Likos, Florida's epidemiologist and
disease control and health protection director.
Since 2006, the United States has averaged 28 imported cases
of chikungunya per year in travelers returning from countries
where the virus is common, the CDC said.
"To date this year, 243 travel-associated cases have been
reported in 31 states and two territories," it said, adding that
Puerto Rico has reported 121 of locally acquired chikungunya.
Chikungunya has rapidly spread in the Caribbean in recent
months, sending thousands of patients to hospitals with painful
joints, pounding headaches and spiking fevers.
Symptoms surface within three to seven days after a bite
from an infected mosquito and typically dissipate within a week.
There is no vaccine and the virus is not deadly.
"It is not known what course chikungunya will take now in
the United States," the CDC said.
The two species of mosquito known to transmit the disease
are commonly found across the Southeast. Local transmission
occurs when a mosquito bites someone who is infected with the
virus and then bites another person.
Officials say they expect the virus will behave like dengue
virus in the United States, where imported cases have not caused
"None of the more than 200 imported chikungunya cases
between 2006 and 2013 have triggered a local outbreak. However,
more chikungunya-infected travelers coming into the United
States increases the likelihood that local chikungunya
transmission will occur," the CDC said.
(Additional reporting By Letitia Stein; Editing by Bill Trott)