A mosquito-borne illness once rarely seen in the United States has cropped up this summer, most recently in Florida this past July. Chikungunya, while not fatal, causes a fever and joint pain and can be very uncomfortable, especially for young children. This new reported case is unique because it is the first time mosquitos in the United States transmitted the disease. In previous cases, travelers have brought the virus back with them from overseas.
Here is what you need to know:
- Two species of mosquitos transmit the disease: aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. These species are found mostly in the southeastern United States, and in some parts of the mid-Atlantic states and in the lower midwest.
- Mosquitos carrying the virus usually bite during the daytime hours.
- The virus can't be spread from person to person.
- There isn't any vaccine or specific treatment for chikungunya.
- Once you have been infected with chikungunya, your body develops an immunity to the virus, and you are likely to be protected from future infections.
- The best prevention is to use mosquito repellent and avoid places mosquitos congregate, such as areas with standing water.
The two main symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other possible symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Joint swelling
Sometimes the symptoms of chikungunya can be extremely painful. If your child shows symptoms, contact your pediatrician. It is best to keep your child indoors during the illness to make sure he isn't bitten by a mosquito, which would transmit the disease to another person.
The best way to help your child through the illness is to make sure he receives plenty of fluids and rest. Your child’s pediatrician may recommend ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for the pain and fever.
Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD