The mosquito-borne chikungunya virus (image of virus particles) has been the subject of increasing attention as it spreads throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. This painful and potentially debilitating disease is predicted to soon spread to the U.S. The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston's Scott Weaver, Ph.D., globally recognized for his expertise in mosquito-borne diseases, has been studying chikungunya virus for more than 15 years. Dr. Weaver and fellow infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Lecuit of the Institut Pasteur in Paris have summarized currently available information on this disease in the March 26, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Since chikungunya was first identified in 1952 in present-day Tanzania, the virus has been confirmed in other African countries, Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe. In December 2013, the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in the Americas was reported in the Caribbean. Since then, chikungunya has been identified in 44 countries or territories throughout the Americas with more than 1.3 million suspected cases reported to the Pan American Health Organization from affected areas. Symptoms appear about three days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms and signs are fever and severe joint pain, and may include headache, arthritis, muscle pain, weakness, and rash. Some patients will feel better within a week but others develop longer-term joint pain that can last weeks to years. Death is rare, but can occur. People at increased risk for severe disease include young children, older adults, and people with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
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