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Features Health & Wellness Health officials urge travelers to be careful of mosquito-borne illnesses

On June 25, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed the second case of Chikungunya to appear in the state.

The disease that is carried by way of a mosquito was discovered when a Almance County man recently returned home from a vacation in the Caribbean.

Health officials in Macon County are now urging travelers to be aware of diseases that may be possible to contract in their noted destinations.

“Be very attentive to preventing mosquito bites, not only to prevent Chikungunya but also dengue, which is prevalent in the Caribbean,” says Stan Pulanski, physician's assistant at the Macon County Health Department. “Use an effective repellent, sleep in mosquito-free rooms, and consider staying indoors if there are swarms of mosquitoes around at certain times of the day.”

Chikungunya is transmitted when a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, but to date, there is no evidence that mosquitoes in the continental U.S. are carrying the disease according to the DHSS's Division of Public Health. Despite the optimism, officials do believe that the Asia Tiger mosquito that is commonly found in N.C. is capable of carrying the virus.

Symptoms of the virus include the sudden onset of fever and severe, often disabling joint pains in the hands and feet. Those who are infected can expect to see such symptoms anywhere from three to seven days after being infected.

There is no medical treatment, but those who experience the described symptoms should notify their doctor of any recent travel for confirmation purposes. No known deaths from Chikungunya have occurred in the U.S.

“Any fever that occurs during or within two or three weeks after a trip should be evaluated by a doctor,” Pulaski said.

If somebody is infected they will need to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluid to keep hydrated and take medicines such as acetaminophen, paraceptamol, naproxen, or ibuprofen to help with pain and fever.

The best defense against diseases like this one is to avoid mosquito bites entirely, but in the summer months when the temperature rarely dips below 55 degrees, even at night, that can be difficult. Add in a chance of rain for multiple days in the week and avoidance may become impossible.

Some steps that can be taken to lower your chances of contracting the virus are:

  • Reduce time spent outdoors, particularly during the early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are the most active.
  • Wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Apply EPA-approved mosquito repellents to exposed skin areas.

People should also take steps to reduce areas that are often used as mosquito breeding grounds around their homes such as:

  • Remove any containers that can hold water.
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair.
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and change the water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week.
  • Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.
  • Keep tight-fitting screens or lids on rain barrels.

According to the NCDHHS, residents of N.C. should also be wary of other mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis.





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