The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is warning vacation and business travelers to the Caribbean about the importance of protecting themselves from mosquitoes that may transmit Chikungunya virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue.
TDH said the first confirmed case of Chikungunya virus disease in Tennessee occurred in 2014 and that since then 42 new cases have been documented, all involving travel outside the state.
“Travel plans to warmer destinations should include necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites” said TDH Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner in a statement.
“Because there is no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya virus disease, the only way to prevent its spread is the effective use of repellants and personal protection strategies.”
The TDH said prior to 2013, Chikungunya virus disease was found primarily in Africa, Asia, and Europe and in the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas.
It said the illness draws its name from an African word meaning “to become contorted” as most patients suffer from severe joint pain.
TDH said Chikungunya is rarely fatal, but can cause fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches, fatigue and rash. It can also lead to chronic joint pain.
In the past year, health organizations have reported the disease spreading in additional areas, including the Caribbean and the Americas.
“Since it first surfaced here Chikungunya has sickened more than one million people in 44 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere. We take the growing threat of chikungunya seriously and we are worried we will see more of it,” Dreyzehne said.
He said the number of cases of Chikungunya continues to rise in the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, increasing the chances for American travelers to become infected with diseases.