Chikungunya: What Local Health Departments Need to Know

Over the last several months, NACCHO has been assessing the potential implications of chikungunya (pronounced “chik-en-gun-ya”) for local health departments. Earlier this week on August 6, public health officials in Harris County, Texas confirmed that a mosquito had tested positive for the virus. Year-to-date, Harris County has tested over 450,000 mosquitoes; however, this week was the first time they had a positive result for chikungunya. The origin of the virus in this particular mosquito is unknown, but it may have been locally transmitted or imported to Texas.

As of August 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received a total of 484 chikungunya virus disease cases. At this time, only four reported cases have been locally-transmitted, all of which are in Florida. All other reported cases have been travelers returning from affected areas in the Caribbean, South America, the Pacific Islands, or Asia. The CDC is working closely with the Florida Department of Health to investigate how the patients contracted the virus and also will monitor for additional locally acquired United States cases in the coming weeks and months.

Impact to Local Health Departments

As highlighted in our May 27 blog post, local health departments are on the front lines of protecting the public from the spread of this virus. Local health departments are encouraged to review mosquito surveillance capacities, implement mosquito control plans as appropriate and ensure communication strategies exist to educate the public and health care professionals about symptoms and preventative measures for reducing mosquito bites.

About Chikungunya

The virus, which has been known throughout Africa and Asia since the 1950s, causes a disease that has been compared to dengue fever and described as having a terrible case of the flu combined with an abrupt case of arthritis. It is most commonly characterized by fever and joint pain and could include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and/or a rash. The disease is spread via bites of two species of mosquitoes that are present and abundant in the United States: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the latter is an alien species that has established itself in our country.

More Chikungunya-Related Resources

About Andy Roszak

Andrew Roszak serves as the Senior Director for Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness and Catastrophic Response at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Twitter: @AndyRoszak

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