ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 29, 2014) -- A virus called "chikungunya" carried by mosquitoes that are common in the continental United States is likely to appear in locations where Soldiers, Army civilians and their families work and live.
The virus, transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, causes high fever and joint pain, explained public health experts at the U.S. Army Public Health Command, known as USAPHC. Symptoms also can include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and rash, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms can last three to seven days, even up to two weeks. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months, according to USAPHC physician-epidemiologist Lt. Col. Laura Pacha.
As of 15 July, the CDC reported approximately 234 travel-related cases in the U.S., most brought in by travelers to the Caribbean, where the disease appeared for the first time this year. Outbreaks of the disease previously occurred in countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Two cases of locally acquired chikungunya were recently reported in Florida, the first in the continental United States.
"Due to the similar symptoms, chikungunya could be easily confused with dengue fever or even malaria," Pacha said. "If you experience these symptoms, whether you have traveled or not, be sure to go to your doctor and get your illness properly diagnosed."
There is no vaccination or medicine to cure chikungunya; treatments such as rest, fluids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines help alleviate symptoms until the disease goes away, usually in a week or two, Pacha said.
USAPHC experts say the best form of prevention is to avoid mosquito bites altogether.
"Always apply DEET or picaridin repellant on exposed skin," Pacha said. "If you go on leave, especially to one of the places where chikungunya is found, treat your clothing with permethrin using an aerosol can or IDA kit (Individual Dynamic Absorption Kit for uniforms)."
The IDA kit is only authorized for use on military uniforms not civilian clothing.
Since the kinds of mosquitoes that carry the diseases can bite during the day as well as at dawn and dusk, USAPHC experts suggest wearing loose, light-colored clothing -- long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and permethrin-treated clothing. For Soldiers wearing the permethrin-treated Army combat uniform, wearing the uniform properly is also important. This means wearing sleeves rolled down, all openings closed, pants tucked into boots, and undershirts tucked into pants. Loose uniforms are also a good idea, since mosquitoes can bite through fabric that is tight against skin.
In addition to protecting your body, USAPHC experts recommend carrying the fight against chikungunya to the places where mosquitoes live and breed.
Entomologists at the USAPHC advise staying in air-conditioning spaces, and ensuring that window screens are in place, tight and without holes. If sleeping outdoors, permethrin-treated mosquito netting should be used. Around the house, standing pools of water in tires, buckets, trash cans and the like should be emptied. The mosquitoes that carry chikungunya breed in water.
More information on protecting yourself and your home from chikungunya and on the Department of Defense Insect Repellent System is available from these sources:
U.S. Army Public Health Command
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention