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Travelers urged to take precautions to prevent chikungunya infection

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Currently widespread in the Caribbean, chikungunya is a viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. The insects contract the virus when they feed on an infected person; they can then spread the disease to other people through bites. Though typically not fatal, the most common symptoms can be severe and include fever and joint pain.

Tennessee currently has 15 confirmed cases of chikungunya, three are Knox County residents. KCHD is investigating additional suspect cases. All of the cases, confirmed and suspect, have recently traveled to the Caribbean.

"It's important to emphasize that the current infection risk is to those who travel to areas, such as the Caribbean, where the disease is highly prevalent," said KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. "We have not seen local transmission in the U.S., meaning that the mosquitoes in the U.S. have not been infected with the disease and cannot, at this time, spread it to humans."

What to know before you go:

  • No vaccine exists to prevent chikungunya virus. Avoiding mosquito bites is the best protection.
  • The mosquitoes that spread chikungunya bite mostly during the daytime.
  • Mosquito repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 are recommended. Pregnant women and those who are concerned about using repellent products on children should consult their health care provider for advice.

What to do while you're there:

  • Use mosquito repellants.
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing. Some permethrin products may also be used on shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin is not to be used directly on skin.
  • Do not use perfume, cologne or other scented products when outside.
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants if possible.
  • Empty standing water from outdoor containers.
  • Use air conditioning and keep windows and doors closed or covered with screens.

What to be aware of when you get back:

  • Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • The most common symptoms include fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
  • Anyone with symptoms of chikungunya virus should seek medical care and minimize his or her exposure to mosquitoes to reduce the risk of local transmission.

Most patients feel better within a week. In some, however, the joint pain may persist for months. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. People at increased risk for severe disease include newborns exposed during delivery, those 65 years of age and older, and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Deaths are rare.

As of June 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 57 confirmed cases of chikungunya in the U.S. Cases have also been reported in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and the islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

For more information, please contact the Knox County Health Department at 865-215-5090.

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City County Building
400 Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

Phone: 865-215-2000

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