Chikungunya Virus Latest

The most recent count reports more than 80 cases of the chikungunya virus in the United States. Of those, Mississippi and Alabama are each reporting one case. With its origin in Africa, there has been a recent outbreak of the virus in the Caribbean.

"The concern is for people who are traveling because the cases in the United States are people who are traveling, especially to the Caribbean and getting it there," says Dr. Rebecca James, who is the District 6 Health Officer for the Mississippi Department of Health.

Transmitted by mosquitos, she says the virus is not necessarily considered deadly.

"If you come back from a trip, and generally within the next three to seven days - but it can be up to 12 days - people with this get a high fever, and suddenly start getting arthritis in your joints. The chikungunya generally makes you feel really miserable for three to five days, and then you get over it."

However, Dr. James stresses that the chikungunya virus can have more dire effects on people who may already have weaker immune systems such as those who are elderly and the very young.

According to health officials, at least one type of mosquito that can spread the chikungunya virus lives in Mississippi, and at least two types have been identified in Alabama.

Unlike the west nile virus, which is often transmitted by mosquitos during the early morning hours or later in the day, Dr. James notes that mosquitos which carry the chikungunya virus often bite during the day.

"If you go on a mission trip, a relief trip, to just visit a country in the Caribbean, or on a cruise then make sure that you wear your repellent, and that you cover your arms and legs in the daytime," says James.

Although the chikungunya virus is getting a lot of attention, in the twin states our biggest concern is still the west nile virus. That's why health officials are encouraging people to remember the importance of avoiding mosquitos during peak times.