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Scary Virus Alert: Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Is Heading Our Way

Once relegated solely to India, the frightening illness has taken hold in the Caribbean and experts predict America is next on the itinerary

Will Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes make Caribbean vacations a thing of the past?enlargeWill Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes make Caribbean vacations a thing of the past?
We may be only hearing about it now here in the States, but Chikungunya, a virus that causes debilitating headaches, high fevers and severe joint pain, has been plaguing people on Indian Ocean islands, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Italy for nearly a decade.

Now, it appears to have taken hold in the Caribbean where, as the CDC has reported, both islanders and tourists on St. Maarten, Guadeloupe and the B.V.I. have fallen prey. And, apparently, it's a given that Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes are heading our way -- Florida, Texas and other hot, humid southern states as primary initial destinations.

Like West Nile or Malaria before it, Chikungunya is contracted by mosquito bite but, unlike the others, it's "in a genus of viruses that humans have seldom encountered." Translation? We have no antibodies or immunities to help arm ourselves against an attack. While most patients do fully recover, joint pain may persist for years and heart, neurological and gastrointestinal complications may ensue. At present, there's no cure for the disease. The World Health Organization reports "treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms."

READ: Are Vitamins and Supplements Bad for You?

Kent Sepkowitz writes in The Daily Beast, proactive and comprehensive mosquito eradication is imperative. "Such a program will be expensive, require thoughtful planning and coordination between states both red and blue, involve harsh pesticides and a re-consideration of the necessity of an international tire resale business. Control also will need faster more widely available diagnostic tests, smoother healthcare delivery, and exploration into new vaccines."

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