NY Travel Clinic

How to protect yourself against the chikungunya virus

The chikungunya virus is transmitted by mosquitos, and although most outbreaks were located in foreign countries, the virus has also been locally transmitted in some parts of the United States.Local transmission means that mosquitos in that state or territory were infected with the virus and are transmitting it to people There’s no treatment for the disease caused by this virus, so it’s critical to do all you can to protect yourself from it.

Symptoms

People infected by the virus exhibit a fever and joint pain, usually about 3 to 7 days after an infected mosquito bites them.  Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, swollen joints, and rash.  Most people recover quickly, but some people have symptoms that last for months.  The elderly, infants, and those with conditions such as hypertension, heart problems, and diabetes might experience neurological or heart complications.

What countries are affected?

Chikungunya occurs in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and countries in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including recent cases in Samoa.  The CDC reports that as of March 24 of this year, 68 chikungunya cases have been reported from 19 U.S. states, from travellers who returned from foreign countries affected by the disease.  A total of 52 locally-transmitted chikungunya cases have been reported from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  .  Note that in 2014, there were 11 locally-transmitted cases in Florida, from about 2500 cases of the disease in the United States.  So precautions by U.S. residents must be followed just as stringently as those travelling abroad.

How to protect yourself

 The risk of being bitten is higher during the day.  There’s no vaccine and no treatment against chikungunya so follow these precautions:

  1. The CDC recommends you use insect repellents that contain DEET, and a compound that is derived from eucalyptus plants called para-menthane-diol, and products with oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  2. Repellent should be applied AFTER sunscreen.
  3. Wear permethrin-treated clothing.
  4. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, but don’t use repellents in this case.
  5. Use a mosquito bed net.

Travellers must be vigilant and protect themselves with the right products and clothes, and stay in hotels that have air conditioning or window and door screens.  Even if you travel within the States, you must protect yourself and your loved ones with these strategies.