Nasty Mosquito-Borne Illness Hits U.S. - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Nasty Mosquito-Borne Illness Hits U.S.

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A new mosquito-borne virus is sweeping the nation and national health experts say they are concerned.

Chikungunya hails from the Caribbean and can easily spread when certain species of mosquitoes bite an infected person and then another person. Valley News Team's Mellaney Moore talked to local experts today to see if we need to be worried here in the Valley.  

With summer finally shining on the Valley, those at Lindenwood Park in Fargo are reminded of the season's beauty...and buzzing...

"It kind of gets a little bad when you get into the shady areas, but other than that just stay away from those," says Chealsey Palazzo of Fargo. 'Oh yeah, it's summer...mosquitoes...,' remembers her coworker Ashley Brown, also of Fargo.

While many of us do consider them pests and they can carry serious illnesses in our area, Cass County Vector Control experts says the two species of mosquito that carry Chikungunya are not found in North Dakota as of yet.

"At this point I think the nearest that we've seen these Aedes Albopictus in particular was in the Twin Cities," says Cass County Vector Control Director Ben Prather.

He says they were imported accidentally, since the tropical insects prefer much warmer climates. Nonetheless, Prather says they are keeping an eye on it as well as monitoring the West Nile virus in the coming weeks.

"Definitely something not for us to brush over. We definitely look very closely at our surveillance and make sure that we're identifying anything that we're worried might be an exotic species," says Prather.

Cass County Vector Control experts say mosquitoes here are at normal levels. They've been focusing lately on mosquito larvae. 22,000 pounds of mosquito control pesticides were put into standing water just yesterday. You can help yourself too.

Even though a lot of people don't like putting insect repellent on, Prather says it can be your first and best defense.

"I don't think it should really prevent you from going out and enjoying a nice walk or camping...as long as you take those precautions," says Brown.

Prather says when you're traveling to tropical climates take extra precautions and if you're having trouble in your own back yard, he says very similar products to what they use can be bought at local yard stores.
WASHINGTON - State health officials across the USA report a surge of suspected cases of a painful mosquito-borne illness that can leave those infected with severe joint pain that can make walking or even shaking hands unbearable.

All but one American suspected of contracting the disease known as chikungunya had recently traveled to the Caribbean. The first case of the disease being transmitted on U.S. soil was confirmed in Puerto Rico late last month.

Infectious disease experts say conditions are ripe for the illness to explode in a large swath of the USA where two mosquito species known to spread the disease are in abundance. "It's not a matter of if but when," said James Crowe, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The disease was discovered in Africa more than 60 years ago and was detected in the Caribbean late last year. About 135,000 people have been suspected or confirmed infected in the Western Hemisphere — mostly in the Caribbean — since last year, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

The symptoms of chikungunya — which is derived from the Kimakonde language and roughly translates as "to become contorted" — include fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The disease shares some clinical symptoms with dengue and is often misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.

The disease, which has no known cure, is less lethal than mosquito-borne illness West Nile virus. The joint pain can be excruciating, and debilitating symptoms usually last days and sometimes weeks.

In recent weeks, state health officials have reported that American travelers to the Caribbean from Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia have been stricken with symptoms consistent with chikungunya. Wednesday, officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands reported a locally transmitted case of the disease. 
"Thankfully, deaths from the disease are rare, but the pain can be severe and debilitating," said Joseph Acierno, chief medical officer at Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services, which this week confirmed the first case of a Nebraskan contracting the disease.

The infected woman had traveled to Haiti, where she may have contracted it.

The warm and wet summer season on its way in the continental USA provides optimal conditions for the disease to spread through the country. Mosquitoes transmit the disease by biting an infected traveler, then biting another person. The disease cannot be spread person-to-person.

Two species of mosquitoes, aedes albopictus and aedes aegypti, carry the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the albopictus, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is "more likely to play a larger role in transmission in the United States due to its wide distribution."

That species can be found from Florida to the mid-Atlantic region and in large swaths of the Midwest. The aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, is mostly found in the Southeast.

CDC studies showed an average of 28 people per year tested positive for chikungunya in the USA from 2006-2013. All were travelers visiting or returning to the USA from affected areas.

In 2014, the number of suspected infected people has exceeded the U.S. yearly average. Florida and Tennessee have counted a total of 37 suspected cases in recent weeks.

Of the 14 suspected cases involving Tennesseans, 13 had returned from mission trips from Haiti, said Abelardo Moncayo of the Tennessee Department of Health.

Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association, said federal and state health officials began anticipating that the disease could become an issue in the USA when the first cases were identified in the Caribbean late last year.

She said there is concern among health officials that chikungunya could be spread farther globally as tens of thousands of soccer fans and athletes visit Brazil for the World Cup. One of the species of mosquitoes is common there.

Americans should watch for symptoms to help prevent the disease from spreading, she said. "It's critical that people who are traveling to some of these countries where it is endemic are extra cautious and sensitive if they return home and are not well," Henriksen said. "They should immediately consult with a medical professional."
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