WICHITA, Kan. — The first two cases of the travel-associated chickungunya virus have been identified in Kansas, specifically in the Wichita area.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the patients are two adults from Sedgwick County who reported recent, separate, travel to the Caribbean.
The KDHE says infection with the mosquito-transmitted virus is rarely fatal, but symptoms can be severe. Most of those infected will have fever or joint pain, as well as headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
“Chikungunya virus can be a serious and debilitating disease, and we want travelers to be aware” said Robert Moser, MD, Secretary and State Health Officer. “It is important for persons travelling to countries where chikungunya virus infections are currently reported to take appropriate precautions to prevent exposures to mosquito bites,” Moser said.
Sedgwick County Health Department Epidemiologist Christine Steward says, "With Chikungunya most people get symptoms and they have fever and joint pain. The joint pain can be severe and debilitating. It's good to protect yourself from any mosquito bites."
Outbreaks of the chikungunya virus have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It showed up in the western hemisphere on St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean, last December. Since then, cases have been identified in 19 Caribbean countries.
The virus has been identified in several U.S. states among travelers returning from these countries, but there is no indication that the virus is being transmitted to others on the mainland. That would only occur when area mosquitoes are infected, then transmit it to people.
However, mosquitoes that most commonly transmit chikungunya, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, have both been identified in the U.S., including Kansas. The KDHE says there is a growing concern among public health officials that the virus could become established in local mosquito populations and pose additional risk.
Additional information on the virus can by found on the CDC's website by clicking here.
To prevent mosquito bites, the KDHE and CDC recommend the following:
-Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
-Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots, buckets or old tires.
-When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
-Use insect repellents
-Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
-If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
-Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
-Treat clothing with permethrin, an insect repellant which can be found at most discount or sporting goods stores, or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
-Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.