FORT SILL, Okla. (July 24, 2014) -- For several years, the mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus often show up during summertime around Southwest Oklahoma.This year there is a new mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya, (chick'-en-GUN-yah) or CHIK.This virus is carried by Ae aegypti mosquito in tropical climates such as the Caribbean, Africa and the Gulf Coast of the United States, while the Aedes albopictus is found in temperate climates such as mainland Europe, Asia and the United States.So far only six cases of CHIK have been reported in Oklahoma.CHIK is a debilitating viral illness spread by the bite from infected mosquitoes. It resembles other infections (like dengue fever) in that a high fever and severe joint pain are the primary symptoms that can last from a few days to a few weeks. There have been a number of epidemics in the Philippines and on islands in the Indian Ocean. The first locally acquired cases of CHIK in the Americas were reported in the Caribbean on St. Martin, French West Indies, in late 2013.The Aedes albopictus mosquito species that transmit CHIK is well established throughout the Americas (including the United States) and place the region at risk for further spread of the virus. Since the virus is new to the U.S., most people are not immune. This means they can be infected and spread the virus to other mosquitoes, if bitten.There have been over 350 cases of CHIK reported in the United States in 2014, with more than 120 of those reported in Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida has reported 73 cases this year, with almost all of them contracted by people who traveled outside the United States. However, several cases of CHIK were confirmed last week in southeastern Florida, with the significance being that two individuals had not traveled outside the Continental United States to areas where CHIK is common, such as the Caribbean. These patients contracted CHIK from local mosquitoes that had bitten infected people, and then spread the virus to others they bit. The disease cannot be spread person-to-person.Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters with peak activity at dawn and dusk. The symptoms of CHIK include sudden onset of high fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain and headaches. The symptoms appear on average three to seven days (but can range from two to 12 days) after being bitten by an infected mosquito. While most patients recover after a few days or weeks, a small number may develop chronic joint pain. Some patients have reported temporary disabling joint pain or arthritis which may last for weeks or months. Other possible, but rare, complications include gastrointestinal or cardiovascular disease. Hospitalizations and fatalities are rare.There are no specific vaccines or medication available. Treatment is mainly rest, fluids and anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxin and others.If you experience the symptoms described above, or have traveled to an area where CHIK is known to occur, seek medical attention immediately. CHIK resembles dengue fever, and laboratory tests are required to tell the difference between the two. Be sure to tell your health care provider about your recent travel history. Limit the risk of further mosquito bites as much as possible, as this will help prevent the virus from spreading to other people in case you are infected.The most logical way to avoid becoming infected is to avoid mosquito bites. Fort Sill officials strongly encourage Soldiers and civilians to take preventive measures on their own when outdoors. Protect yourself by remembering the "4 Ds:"1. DEET -- Use only insect repellents that contain at least 30 percent DEET.
2. Dusk to dawn -- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
3. Dress -- Wear long-sleeves and long pants when outdoors; spray clothing with repellent.
4. Drain -- or cover all sources of standing water to reduce mosquito-breeding sites.Repellents with DEET can be used on children as young as two months old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but if you have questions or concerns, contact your primary care provider.Children who are out waiting for the school bus early in the morning should also be protected from mosquitoes. Parents should spray their children with at least 30 percent DEET repellents if the kids are out at the bus stops early in the morning, when mosquitoes are the worst. Mosquitoes can be bad at dusk also, but the majority will come out in the morning.Mosquitoes bite common birds and they become infected. These birds carry the virus as they travel from region to region. Even though the birds are carriers they cannot transmit the virus directly to humans except in extremely rare cases. If you happen to find a dead bird, avoid touching it or picking it up. Contact the nearest health department so they can retrieve the bird and test it for diseases.For more information about CHIK virus and how to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, go to the Army Public Health Command website at http://phc.amedd.army.mil or the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/index.html. If you become ill with the symptoms of CHIK, contact your health care provider.