Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 19, 2014

New virus on the horizon?

Officials have tested for Chikungunya in state

ASHLAND — A new mosquito-borne virus may have many Kentucky residents bringing out all the tricks in repelling the pesky insects.

The mosquito-born Chikungunya virus, also known as “chik-v,” has been reported in 15 U.S. states, including Virginia and Indiana. Though no cases have been confirmed in Kentucky, several cases have been taken under investigation.

Kristy Bolen, senior regional epidemiologist for the Ashland-Boyd County Health Center, has not heard of any cases in the immediate area.

Bolen believes this new virus will spread similarly to that of the West Nile virus.

“We watched (the West Nile virus) develop in the Northeast and slowly make its way toward western areas. I believe it will have similar progression,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mosquitos carrying this virus are mainly found in the Caribbeans or underdeveloped countries with poor sanitation.

Bolen said those from Kentucky who are being tested for Chikungunya have recently been on trips overseas where mosquitos carrying the virus are prominent.

According to the CDC, when traveling to countries with Chikungunya virus, individuals should use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants and stay in places with air conditioning or that use windows and door screens.

“I always tell people to make sure they wear long sleeves and mosquito repellent when they go to underdeveloped countries,” Bolen said.

Chikungunya virus has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013 the virus was found for the first time on the islands of the Caribbean.

Though Chikungunya is rarely fatal, the most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. The symptoms usually appear within a few days of the bite and pain can persist for weeks or months after infection.

The virus is not transmitted from human to human a person will only become infected when bitten by an infected mosquito. And the mosquito picks up the virus when it bites human who is infected. As of now, Kentucky’s mosquito population seems uninfected, but could change in the future.

People at increased risk for the disease include newborns exposed during delivery, senior adults more than 65 years old and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, at this point there is no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya. But there are medicines to help reduce the fever and pain.

The CDC suggests to see your doctor if you think you or a family member might have Chikungunya.

“The biggest thing people can do is protect themselves,” Bolen said.

MARY ALFORD can be reached at malford@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2657.

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