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Health Department Says Two New Cases of Mosquito-Borne Illness In MS

By Evelina Burnett | Published 14 Jul 2014 09:07am | comments
James Gathany/CDC

The Mississippi State Department of Health has confirmed two new cases of the chikungunya virus. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the mosquito-borne illness was found in residents who had recently traveled from the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

A previous case in June also involved a traveler from Haiti. State epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs says there have been several outbreaks of the virus in the Caribbean. That's why the health department wants to get the word out here.

"People in Mississippi need to be concerned for a couple of reasons," he says. "The first reason is, if people in Mississippi are traveling to the Caribbean, partiicularly Haiti, the Dominican Republic - and mission trips have been a venue where a  lot of people have contracted the disease - people need to be very careful to avoid mosquito bites."

Dobbs says when travelers return, they need to be careful to avoid bites so Mississippi mosquitos don’t pick up the virus.

"The mosquitos that we have in Mississippi are a little different than the ones in the Caribbean, making it less likely but it's not impossible," Dobbs says. "So we really do encourage pepole who might have been infected when they come back to the United States to stay indoors and avoid mosquitos at all costs."

Dobbs says the virus is rarely fatal but can make people very ill and cause fever, muscle aches and rash. He advises travelers to wear long-sleeve clothing and mosquito repellant, and look for rooms with good screens or mosquito nets.

The health department and doctors, such as Hancock Medical Center physician Becky Hollibaugh, recommend several of these same steps to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses closer to home.

"Try not to be outdoors during those prime times when the mosquitos are out - those early evening hours," Hollibaugh says. "Avoid places that are going to have standing water. If you have standing water in your yard, try to get that cleared up. Prevention really is key. And then of course if you are going to be out, using some sort of insect repellent." 

In the U.S., the number of chikungunya cases has jumped from about 28 annually, to 153 cases so far this year. But the Centers for Disease Control says there haven’t yet been any cases of the virus being locally transmitted in the continental United States.

State epidemiologist Dobbs says there have only been two reported cases of West Nile virus in Mississippi so far this year, but he cautions the peak season is yet to come in the late summer and early fall. 

Dr. Okechukwu Ekenna, an infectious disease specialist with Singing River Health System in Jackson County, says wearing mosquito repellant with DEET, in the right proportions, and wearing long sleeves and pants are good ideas. 

"With West Nile, for instance, you don't want to be around out in the dusk and dawn times," he says. "With chikungunya, the mosquitos bite even during the daytime, so essentially you need to protect yourself from mosquito bites, cover exposed body parts and not hang around where the mosquitos are," such as standing water. 
 

Links to more information:

Chikungunya virus information from the Mississippi State Department of Health

Chikungunya virus information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

 

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James Gathany/CDC


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