The first known case of the mosquito-borne illness named the “chikungunya” virus, has appeared in North Carolina this past Thursday, according to State health officials’ reports. The virus was found in a state resident that had recently visited the Caribbean.
A common species of mosquito in North Carolina, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is purported to be the most likely candidate to transmit the disease. However, there have been no documented cases of the virus becoming acquired anywhere within the States, including North Carolina. Only the few 27 cases in the U.S. as of now all were found in individuals that had recently returned from the Caribbean area.
Orange County Community Health Supervisor, Judy Butler, explains how this virus can be spread:
“We have a lot of people that travel in Orange County, and people that have been to the Caribbean and other parts of the world where it exists,” says Butler. “If they are bitten by an infected mosquito while they are there, and then they come back to Orange County, they can develop illness. If they are bitten by one of our mosquitoes here, then it becomes infected, then it can turn around and bite someone else.”
Butler says North Carolina residents that have recently traveled to the Caribbean or other areas that have the illness need to alert their physicians immediately if they begin to experience the symptoms of virus following the bite. Though hardly fatal, the symptoms include a fever and extreme pains in the hands and feet.
Butler also says the best ways to prevent any risk of spreading the virus or further breeding of the Asian tiger mosquitoes are actually the most obvious ones:
“Basically, we all need to take measures to avoid mosquito bites as much as we can,” says Butler. “Mosquito bite prevention is the best thing you can do.”
Butler says this includes removing or keeping an eye on any source of standing water, wearing long sleeves and long pants in the times in which mosquitoes are most likely to bite, wearing appropriate repellent, and to properly screen doors and windows.