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Americans Test Positive for Chikungunya Virus

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People in 15 states including Nevada have tested positive for the chikungunya virus - a mosquito-borne illness that was likely contracted outside of the U.S.

It's known as CHIKV, and it's transmitted through mosquito bites. While the virus isn't normally deadly, it does make people sick for about four or five days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Nevada has one positive case of chick-v. Just one of 15 states where someone has been diagnosed with the virus. "The chikungunya virus will last 3, 4, 5 days. You're miserable, then you'll get better. We can treat you symptomatically," says Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt University.

The CDC says all the Americans that have tested positive for the chikungunya virus contracted it in a country where the virus is common. "This is one that's relatively new to the Americas. It's been in Africa, parts of Asia, and even parts of Europe for some time," says Dr. Randall Todd of the Washoe County Health District.

The virus showed up in the Caribbean last year -- infecting 100,000. Symptoms usually show up three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito -- with people normally running a fever of about 102. "Headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, there can even be a rash that sometimes appears with this."

The virus cannot be spread from human-to-human. The worry in the U.S. is that a mosquito will bite an infected person and get into the local mosquito population. "There's no vaccine, so the main thing that people need to do, if they're going to be travelling in an area where the virus exists, they need to take steps to avoid mosquito bites."

Using mosquito repellant with DEET, and wearing pants and long sleeve shirts are ways to avoid mosquito bites.

Mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and encephalitis already exist in Nevada. That's why the vector control program does mosquito abatement in Washoe County -- as well as surveillance and public education. That education includes the chikungunya virus. "It's good to know about because a lot of people do vacation in parts of the world where this is common. So, knowing how to take those precautionary measures is important."

Two types of mosquitos transmit this virus. They're both day-biters that do live in the United States. So far, the good news is neither of them live in Nevada.

Written by Paul Nelson

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