Two adults in Sedgwick County, Kan., in the south-central part of the state, have been diagnosed with a rare virus after returning from separate trips to the Caribbean.
The mosquito-borne chikungunya virus can result in joint pain and weakness that may last for years, but Kansas health officials say local transmission is highly unlikely.
“Local transmission is when mosquitoes in the area have been infected and are spreading it to people, but at this time in the United States no mosquitos have been infected,” says Aimee Rosenow, a public information officer with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
As of Tuesday, July 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified 114 cases of chikungunya virus in the continental United States in 2014. All of them originated in other countries, primarily in the Caribbean.
This is the first year the virus has been identified in Kansas. No cases have been reported in Missouri.
Infection with the virus is rarely fatal, but health officials say the symptoms can be severe. Symptoms include high fever, rash, joint pain and arthritis. Following two days of fever, patients may experience pain and fatigue for up to a week, although some patients have reported such symptoms lasting as long as two years. While symptoms can be minimized, the virus is not treatable.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommends travelers use air conditioners or window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside. Travelers are also advised to avoid standing water, to wear pants and long sleeves, and to use insect repellent containing DEET.
Rosenow says the department is also working to inform Kansas doctors of the symptoms of the disease.
The Chikungunya virus was discovered in Tanganyika in 1952 and was first recognized in the Western Hemisphere in late 2013.