October 15, 2014 / 10:50 PM / 5 years ago

Mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus likely to reach Mexico- health ministry

A volunteer from the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO) fumigates a house to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in Villa San Francisco on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is very likely to join the list of countries to register cases of the painful mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya, a senior health ministry official said on Wednesday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species, and is typically not fatal but can cause debilitating symptoms including fever, headache and severe joint pain lasting months.

There is no current treatment for the virus, which was detected for the first time in the Americas late last year, and no licensed vaccine to prevent it.

Given that the virus has already shown up in much of the Caribbean, Central America and the United States, it is also likely to reach Mexico, Pablo Kuri, the deputy health minister in charge of disease prevention, told Reuters.

“It’s very probable that at some point, we’ll have confirmed cases of chikungunya,” he said, noting that six cases have already been detected, but those people had contracted the virus in the Caribbean and El Salvador.

He said that Mexico is home to the mosquito species that carries the virus, adding to the likelihood of its arrival.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have chikungunya in Mexico,” Kuri said.

Last month, El Salvador said it had detected nearly 30,000 cases of the virus. In the United States, locally transmitted infections - as opposed to infections in Americans traveling abroad - were reported for the first time this year.

Chikungunya, a virus more commonly found in Africa and Asia and transmitted by the same daytime-biting aedes aegypti mosquito that causes the more deadly dengue fever, was first detected in the eastern Caribbean at the start of 2014.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Diane Craft

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