The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed the first case of chikungunya in Tennessee, officials reported Friday.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lab results showed a Madison County resident in West Tennessee tested positive for the virus.
The state health department reminds residents of the importance of taking precautions to protect themselves from bites from mosquitoes that may spread chikungunya and other viruses like West Nile and La Crosse.
According to the health department, multiple people from Tennessee and other states who have recently traveled to the Caribbean now have symptoms of the illness.
Chikungunya is now widespread in the Caribbean with more than 100,000 suspected cases reported.
Currently there is no evidence of transmission of chikungunya in Tennessee, so people most at risk are those returning from travel to the Caribbean.
"At this time there is no vaccine against chikungunya, so the only way to contain its spread is to prevent mosquito bites," said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. "Chikungunya is spread by mosquitoes that feed during the day and are found in abundance in Tennessee."
Chikungunya is transmitted by daytime-biting mosquitoes. People who get chikungunya often have a sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, rash and severe joint pain. Fever and joint pain are the most common symptoms, and most infected people feel better within a week. However, in some the joint pain may persist for months. Symptoms of chikungunya are similar to those of another disease spread by mosquitoes recently seen in the United States called dengue. Anyone with these symptoms should consult his or her healthcare provider and let the provider know if you have recently traveled abroad.
People at risk for more serious effects from chikungunya include newborns, those over age 65 and those with health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. While there is no medicine to treat or cure the infection, rest, fluids to prevent dehydration and medicines like acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain are helpful. Fortunately, once a person has been infected with chikungunya, they are likely to be protected from future infections, and the disease rarely results in death.
"Anyone with symptoms of chikungunya virus should minimize his or her exposure to mosquitoes to reduce the risk of transmission," said State Medical Entomologist Abelardo Moncayo, PhD, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Diseases program. "A mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected human and infect other people."
The Tennessee Department of Health offers these recommendations for preventing mosquito bites:
• Chikungunya is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, which feed during the day as well as at dawn and dusk, so take precautions to prevent bites any time you are outside.
• Use insect repellants such as DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on your skin, following all label recommendations for usage. Pay particular attention to recommendations for use on children and never apply any of these products around the mouth or eyes at any age. Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions.
• Certain products containing permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated laundering. Permethrin is not to be used directly on skin.
• Do not use perfume, cologne or other scented products such as deodorant, soap or lotion if you're going outside, as fragrances may attract mosquitoes.
• Remember "long, loose and light" when selecting outdoor wear. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best, and for improved effectiveness, tuck pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants to form bug barriers. Wear loose-fitting clothing to prevent bites through the fabric. Light-colored clothes are less attractive to many insects and may allow you to spot them more easily.
• Eliminate standing water near your home, which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Many containers, even those as small as a bottle cap, can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
• Keep wading pools empty when not in use and store them on their sides. Replace water in bird baths weekly and don't allow water to stand in buckets or barrels. If you have a rain collection barrel, make sure it has a tight-fitting screen on the top.
• Keep windows and doors closed or cover with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.