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Published On: Wed, Dec 18th, 2013

Chikungunya in the Western Hemisphere: An interview with a CDC expert

With the recent report of local transmission of Chikungunya virus on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, the first such cases in the Western Hemisphere, I sought out an expert on the topic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss the presence of the virus on our doorstep and the implications to the countries of the Americas.

Aedes aegypti Image/CDC

Aedes aegypti
Image/CDC

Earlier today, I spoke to Roger S. Nasci, PhD, Chief of the Arboviral Diseases Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne diseases at the CDC  and one of the main authors of the 2011 CDC/PAHO publication, Preparedness and response for chikungunya virus: Introduction in the Americas for the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show (Listen below) about the disease and transmission.

In addition, Nasci explained how chikungunya could impact areas of the Americas, which have never seen this virus before.

With dengue fever making its presence known in the United States, how concerned should Americans be about chikungunya?

Nasci says when comparing dengue virus, which is extremely widespread in the Americas, “There are a large number of dengue infected travelers coming back into the US, and despite that and having the competent vectors in a number of places, we see relatively few of these outbreaks and they appear to be relatively limited.

“So while I think there’s a good likelihood such events will occur, the extent would be much more restricted than it would in the tropical areas where dengue virus is endemic and causing epidemics on an annual basis.”

According to the World Health Organization, chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal and is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms of chikungunya include high fever and headache, with significant pains in the joints (ankles, wrists), which can persist for several weeks. The symptoms appear between 4 and 7 days after the patient has been bitten by an infected mosquito. The name, chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning “that which bends up”, reflecting the physique of a person suffering from the disease.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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