New Virus Spreading In Caribbean Threatens South Florida

VirusMy medical student, just returning from a good will health mission with his church to provide health care and supplies in Haiti, developed high spiking fevers and severe joint pains on the day of his return. His feet hurt so much it was difficult to walk. His hands hurt so much he could not open a jar or grip a pen or pencil. The fever lasted several days and the severe joint symptoms longer. He is most likely a victim of the Chikungunya virus being spread by mosquitoes in the Caribbean. The Pan –American Health Organization is reporting more than 9,000 confirmed cases and at least 90,000 suspected cases. The disease occurs when a mosquito bites an infected individual and then bites someone else. Symptoms are rarely fatal but are debilitating with the joint symptoms lasting long after the fever is gone in most recipients. The virus is transmitted by the same mosquito that is now carrying dengue fever and West Nile virus. There are blood tests that allow us to identify if this new virus is the cause of your symptoms. There is currently no quick screening test so it takes a while for the tests to confirm the cause of your fever and pain. By the time the results are known, most patients are on the mend or back to their normal health.

Prevention is the key. Individuals travelling to the Caribbean should be aware of the disease and take anti-mosquito precautions. These would include applying an insect repellent with Deet and wearing long sleeves and pants. Mosquito swarming is increased at dusk and dawn so these are times to avoid outside exposure if possible. Travelers on cruise ships taking day excursions need to be aware of these precautions and follow them. Those living in South Florida have already been warned and told to eliminate free standing water where mosquitoes can breed and multiply. Treatment is supportive including vigorous hydration, rest and anti-inflammatory medicine for the aches and pains.