Chikungunya Virus Confirmed in Dallas Traveller Who Visited The Caribbean

Chikungunya virus in Dallas countyThe first case of chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in Dallas County was confirmed on Tuesday by the Dallas County Health and Human Services. The vector-borne viral disease is caused by an arthropod-borne virus, of the genus Alphavirus, which is transmitted through a mosquito bite and. The first case of the virus in the state of Texas was discovered earlier this month in Williamson County, which is north of Austin.

The authorities confirmed that the patient was infected during a recent trip to the Caribbean, and he was diagnosed after he had already returned to his home in Dallas, however, no further details were given in order to respect the patient’s medical confidentiality and personal privacy.

“Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The virus causes high fever and severe joint pain that start suddenly. It can also cause headache, muscle pain and rash. CHIKV does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be disabling, and some people may get severe complications. There is no specific medication available to treat CHIKV and there is not a vaccine. Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to avoid CHIKV,” stated the DCHHS authorities.

Prevention efforts for chikungunya virus mainly involve public health education initiatives to help communities avoid mosquitoes and keep mosquito populations down, as with other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue. Public health officials are reminding Texas communities that residents should practice what they refer to as “the four Ds,” which are draining standing water around the house weekly; staying indoors at dusk and dawn, which is when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active; using DEET as an effective insect repellent and applying it to exposed skin and clothing; and dressing in long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk or in areas where mosquitoes are active.

The chikungunya virus was first identified more than 60 years ago in Africa, but cases in the Caribbean were detected for the first time last year. Since then, about 135,000 people have been suspected or confirmed infected in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Last month, national health authorities as well as science experts warned that there was a possibility that the virus was present in the United States, due to two mosquito species abundant in the country who are able to spread the disease. Earlier this month, the Texas Department of State Health Services Health and Human Services Commission confirmed the first human case of chikungunya, in Williamson County north of Austin, in Texas, in a patient who had also recently returned from the Caribbean.

The Global Virus Network (GVN) created a GVN Chikungunya Task Force in April, pooling the expertise of top virologists from around the world. It is composed of 16 virologists representing nine countries and led by Dr. Scott Weaver, John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Human Infections and Immunity and Director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Dr. John K. Fazakerley at the Pirbright Institute in the U.K., and Dr. Marc Lecuit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

All of the participating members are affiliated with GVN Centers of Excellence and the group is working on creating faster ways of identifying infections, improving treatment options and developing an effective vaccine. The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston has been monitoring the spread of Chikungunya virus for some time alerted that the “viral emergence” involves a wide variety of factors, including environmental changes, either generated by natural causes or human activity, but also accidental changes or mutations in the virus’s genetic code.

About Leonor Mateus Ferreira

Leonor Mateus Ferreira
Leonor Mateus Ferreira is an emerging, young journalist, with a Batchelor's degree in Communication and post-graduate degree in Multiplatform Journalism. She is particularly interested in politics and current affairs, and is currently studying for a masters degree in economics and public policies.
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