Perform an internet search for “Chikungunya” and you’ll find numerous recent articles. Here’s a summary of the situation and why you should care.
Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes to children and adults that causes symptoms like fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, joint and muscle pain. The name of the virus translates to “that which bends up,” which describes a person’s bent and contorted appearance caused by debilitating joint pain. Chikungunya rarely causes death, but a large percentage of people who are exposed to the virus experience symptoms (Between 53-93%, Described here and here.), unlike West Nile virus, which generally causes symptoms in a small percentage of infected people. There are no antiviral medications or vaccines available.
Chikungunya was first discovered in Tanzania in the 1950s and has spread to 50+ countries. The virus has caused serious epidemics, infecting a third of the population on La Reunion Island and over a million people in India. In December 2013, chikungunya was found in the Americas for the first time; thousands of suspected cases have been documented in several island nations of the Caribbean. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), millions of US residents travel to the islands annually, who could become infected and bring the virus home with them. Experts are on alert for emerging cases in the US. On the positive side, the CDC has been working with other organizations since 2006 to establish response plans in case of emergence in new countries. Health officials are aware of the situation, but warn travelers to avoid mosquito bites if vacationing to affected countries.