Chikungunya is a viral disease carried by mosquitoes which has been spreading rapidly in the Caribbean in recent months. The Associated Press reports that the first case of Chikungunya has now been discovered in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and was announced by health officials last Wednesday.
They gave no details about the patient, but confirmed that the virus had been transmitted locally. They indicated that a second person had also been infected, but had acquired the disease in another location.
Local Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett said that they were working with other agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to "raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus."
The Pan American Health Organization has recorded around 135,000 cases - both suspected and confirmed - since December 2013. The first locally transmitted case of Chikungunya to appear in the Caribbean was in the French territory of St. Martin.
Since then, the viral disease, which originated in Africa, has spread very quickly and there have been dozens of cases confirmed in French Guiana and Guyana. Chikungunya has also been reported in other South American countries, including Venezuela.
There is now growing concern in the mainland U.S. about the fact that the virus is spreading so rapidly and into new areas. There are two known species of mosquitoes responsible for transmitting Chikungunya, and they can be found in parts of the southern and eastern U.S.
Epidemiologists are afraid that the first local transmissions in the U.S. could occur within weeks due to the large number of American tourists traveling to the Caribbean.
Two of the hardest hit territories are the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican health ministry said that virtually all of its 32 provinces had been affected and there were tens of thousands of reported cases.
The symptoms of Chikungunya include a burning fever, headaches and a debilitating pain in joints. The bad news is that is no vaccine for the virus.
The good news is that Chikungunya is rarely fatal!