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W.Va.’s 1st case of mosquito-borne chikungunya confirmed

By Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer

The West Virginia Department for Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health on Tuesday confirmed the state's first case of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne infection that has been reported in more than a dozen states and U.S. territories this year.

Dr. Letitia Tierney, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, said last week that the agency could not say where the patient lived until the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed the case. An arbovirus test was sent to the CDC on June 18 and, although the case is now confirmed, the agency has chosen not to specify where the patient is located, except to note that it’s in Western West Virginia. This is to protect the identity of the patient, according to DHHR spokeswoman Allison Adler.

A communications representative for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department declined to comment and a representative from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, based in Parkersburg, could not be reached for comment.

According to Tierney, chikungunya sufferers can remain asymptomatic for three to seven days after infection, and a person traveling abroad might not realize they're sick until they have returned home. 

"The individual infected with chikungunya traveled from Western West Virginia to Haiti and became symptomatic upon return to the United States," Tierney said. 

Chikungunya, a disease most commonly carried by mosquitoes in areas of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, has produced more than 80 reported cases in 14 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as of June 17. Symptoms of the disease include fever and severe joint pain. 

According to the CDC, all the cases reported in the United States have been travel related. No transmission between people in the United States has occurred, the CDC said. The virus is rarely lethal but can cause severe muscle aches and joint pain, which can last for months. 

The Bureau for Public Health has sent letters to health departments and health-care providers across the state with detailed clinical information about the disease and its prevention. The agency also is stressing awareness for residents to prevent the potential spread of chikungunya and other, more common, mosquito-borne diseases.

"I must stress the importance of wearing mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of eucalyptus when residents are conducting outdoor activities, to protect from mosquito bites, and always wash off any insect repellent at the end of the day," Tierney said. "Infants under 2 months should be protected with mosquito netting when outdoors."

For more information about the disease, visit www.dhhr.wv.gov/oeps/disease/zoonosis/mosquito/pages/chikungunya.aspx.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189. 


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