A painful new dengue-like virus spreading across the Caribbean and could be hitting the United States soon. Severe headaches, burning fever, and painful joints are all symptoms of the chikungunya virus, which aptly comes from an African word that roughly translates into “contorted with pain.” As the Associated Press’s David McFadden reports, the mosquito-borne virus isn’t fatal, but the arthritis-like joint pain it causes is debilitating and can last for years.
Chikungunya has long blighted African and Asian countries, but the first confirmed Caribbean case was reported in French St. Martin in December and has since spread rapidly across the islands — which are heavy with tourists from many different countries. Chikungunya is a variant of the more commonly-known dengue fever, and while misdiagnosis is common, chikungunya is more intensely painful than dengue, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
The problem now lies with travelers leaving the Caribbean and carrying the illness home with them. The Pan American Health Organization says there are more than 55,000 cases of the disease across the Caribbean, and it’s gradually making its way north and south out of the island confines. A case was recently confirmed in French Guiana, the first on the South American mainland, and CBS Miami reports that a fourth case was confirmed in Florida on Thursday morning, after a 66-year-old man had recently returned from the Caribbean.
The two types of mosquitoes capable of carrying both chikungunya and dengue, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, are found in the southern and eastern United States, so freely douse yourself with bug spray at all times this summer as a precaution.