First case of chikungunya fever reported in Manatee

rdymond@bradenton.comJune 27, 2014 

In this undated file photo provided by the USDA, an aedes aegypti mosquito is shown on human skin. ASSOCIATED PRESS

MANATEE -- Manatee County's first confirmed case of chikungunya (CHIK-un-gun-yuh) fever was reported Thursday by the Florida Department of Health.

The victim, who lives in the county, came down with the fever after traveling recently to the Dominican Republic and getting bit by a virus-carrying mosquito there, said Megan Jourdan, spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County.

"The patient is doing well now," said Ron Cox, director of epidemiology with Manatee County. "This patient is out of danger."

Patient privacy laws prevent Manatee health officials from revealing the Manatee fever victim's age, gender, neighborhood, or symptoms. Jourdan did say the Manatee patient was not hospitalized.

In most patients, the illness includes a high fever accompanied by severe joint pain in the wrists and ankles and a rash, Cox said.

"This illness can't be contracted person to person," Cox said. "To get it you must be bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. Health care workers are in no danger."

Sarasota County reported its first case of chikungunya fever Wednesday involved a traveling patient now recovering from the illness, said Dianne Shipley, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.

"Travel to the Caribbean has been the greatest link to the fever," Shipley said. "Victims may have a fever greater than 102, headaches and muscle pain."

Manatee health officials have asked homeowners to drain anything on their property that might contain even small amounts of water where mosquitoes can breed.

Although about 50 cases of the fever in Florida have all been traced to travel, the same species of mosquito that carries the virus in the Caribbean Islands and elsewhere is abundant in Florida. One could bite an infected person, then transmit the virus to a healthy person, Jourdan said.

"Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection with chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases," said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County. "Remember to drain standing water, cover all skin with repellent or clothing, and ensure open windows and doors have functioning screens."

To date, there have been no reports of anyone acquiring the disease in Florida, Shipley confirmed.

Since federal privacy laws extend to government, Manatee County Mosquito Control will not be informed of the patient's address to spray the yard, but will learn the "general vicinity" and spray extra there, said Mark Latham , Manatee County director of mosquito control.

Latham said this particular species of mosquito, called Aedes aegypti, flies only a few hundred feet in its life, so keeping them away from the patient, in theory, is a sensible plan for protecting others.

"It tends to hang around backyards where it came from so you are looking to canvass that local area and get rid of breeding sources," Latham said.

Reducing "mosquito nurseries" is the best overall safety plan, said Tom Larkin, director of environmental health for the Department of Health in Manatee County.

Aedes aegypti is active from a few hours after sunrise until a few hours before sunset, Larkin said.

"We want to caution people who are out gardening in the middle of the day that this species is active throughout the day," Larkin said.

Chikungunya fever is revealed via a blood test, Cox said.

"If a patient suspects they have the fever, they should go to their doctor immediately," Cox said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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