New Mosquito-Borne Illness Hits VA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

New Mosquito-Borne Illness Hits VA

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A painful new illness carried by mosquitoes has the commonwealth concerned.

The illness is called chikungunya. Experts believe Americans are bringing it back from overseas. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports Virginians are already feeling its effects.

With our area's dense mosquito population, some are taking extra precautions to protect themselves from bites.

“It really is that Charlottesville is a real hot spot for mosquitoes and ticks,” said Joannah Rude, who works for Mosquito Squad.

The CDC says chikungunya has infected six Virginians. All are believed to have acquired it in the Caribbean or oversees, not in the U.S.

“It causes high fevers, sometimes headache, but characteristically joint aches and pains,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, who specializes in infectious disease at UVA.

Because the virus travels through mosquitoes to people and animals, the Virginia Department of Health is encouraging people to take extra precautions.

"The mosquito that can transmit this virus is in the United States and expanding in its geographic presence, so we have a mosquito here and therefore if the virus gets established in the mosquito population and people, then we could end up with a circulation of virus between mosquitoes and people," Sifri said.

Exterminators say you should get to get rid of standing water. Even a small amount of water can be a breeding ground for hundreds of mosquitoes.

“Tarp - if it is not completely secure on top of your firewood, it will be a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” said Rude.

If that is not enough, mosquito exterminators are ready to help and say business is booming this year – and prevention is certainly better than getting sick.

Not only does chikungunya cause high fevers, but recovery from the illness can also take a while.

“Some people can have a course of joint aches and pains that last for weeks and months afterwards,” said Dr. Sifri.

Everyone is encouraged to wear repellant in the United States and overseas. If you can stand it during the summer months, wear long sleeves.

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