Mosquito Virus Hits Long Island

  by Peggy Allar July 20, 2014

In a story reported by Newsday, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a tropical virus named chikungunya virus was contracted by three Long Island travelers the virus in the Caribbean and returned home debilitated in recent weeks. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed chikungunya virus was transmitted to a Florida man, who had not traveled abroad.

The three cases of the infection -- all involving travel -- have been diagnosed at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said Dr. David Hirschwerk, a specialist in infectious diseases and associate chairman of medicine. Always mosquito-borne and never passed person to person, the chikungunya virus was first identified in the 1950s in what is now Tanzania. It causes fever and severe pain in the joints, which can be recurrent and last for years. Although not lethal, the illness is extremely debilitating. There are no approved vaccines or drug therapies, doctors say. About 355,000 people in more than 20 countries and jurisdictions throughout the Americas have been infected, and the CDC estimates 357 U.S. travelers have contracted chikungunya fever while visiting endemic areas. For some experts, the emergence of chikungunya in Florida sounds an alarm because the virus is carried by mosquito species -- Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti-- that are well established in this country. "The two species of Aedes mosquitoes that spread chikungunya are found in the southern and eastern United States," said Dr. Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

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