By Rod Boshart
Gazette Des Moines Bureau
Iowa reports first case of mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus
DES MOINES — Iowa has its first confirmed case of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus, state public health officials said Wednesday, removing Iowa from the list of six U.S. states that had not reported a case of the disease.
Ann Garvey, deputy state epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health, said a central Iowa adult male in the 18-40 age range who recently returned from a trip to the Caribbean became ill with the mosquito-borne Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) virus. He was not hospitalized and is recovering, according to state health officials.
While the virus has an exotic-sounding name, Garvey said cases of Chikungunya are common in this country, although Iowa had managed to avoid an “imported case” involving an individual who was bitten by an infected mosquito while traveling outside the state.
Heading into September, nearly 700 cases of Chikungunya had been reported across the country, and almost all had occurred in people returning from areas of the Caribbean or South America where infected mosquitoes are common, according to the health agency.
Chikungunya was first described during an outbreak in Tanzania during the 1950s, Garvey said.
“What concerns public health officials, however, is that the disease is spreading to new parts of the world, including the Caribbean,” she said. “Since the Caribbean is a popular vacation area, it is likely the number of imported Chikungunya cases into the U.S. will grow as travelers bring the virus home.”
A mosquito can carry the virus from one person to another if it bites an infected individual and then bites a different person, health officials noted.
An affected individual can become ill with Chikungunya within a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Common symptoms are fever and joint pain and other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Most people feel better within a week, but the joint pain may last for months in some cases, according to a news release issued by the state Department of Public Health.
In Iowa, September and October are the months when mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus are the most active, according to the state health agency. So far this year, seven cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Iowa and surveillance shows mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are active in nearly all parts of the state.
To learn more about Chikungunya, visit www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/. Also, a travel map showing where Chikungunya transmission is occurring can be found at http://1.usa.gov/1tryUlT, according to a health department news release.