Chikungunya Still Ravaging the Caribbean -- Not So Much Miami-Dade

The current American hemisphere outbreak of Chikungunya is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
The current American hemisphere outbreak of Chikungunya is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
via Shutterstock

In December of 2013, the American hemisphere was hit for the first time by an outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease that, although rarely fatal, causes acute fever, bright red rashes, and excruciating joint pain that can last for months.

By last summer, Chikungunya was devastating the Caribbean. Hundreds of thousands had been hit with the disease, particularly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti; when two locally-acquired cases were announced in South Florida in mid-July -- marking the first time the disease had been contracted from North American mosquitoes -- local health officials were preparing for a potential outbreak. It still hasn't happened.

See also: Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus Invades America

As of February 6 more than 2,000 imported cases -- those acquired by Americans traveling abroad -- have been reported in the continental U.S., according to the Pan American Health Organization, but only 11 cases have been reported in people who didn't travel abroad. All of those have been in Florida, but none have been confirmed in 2015.

"We've had a couple of pretty good cold snaps," a state health department spokesman told New Times. "That's a key to [managing] arboviruses."

In Miami-Dade, one case was confirmed on December 20, said Gouyan Zhang, a county health department spokesman, but it was acquired outside the state. "So far so good," Zhang said.

But Miamians traveling to Latin America still need to be vigilant: In the past three months, roughly 300,000 new cases have been reported across the Americas, mostly in the Caribbean and northern South America. Since the outbreak of the disease in December 2013, almost 1.2 million cases are suspected (a possible gross underestimate), with the Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador, and Haiti reporting the most.


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