Chikungunya: It’s Here! Nation’s First Locally Acquired Cases Reported in South Florida

Aileen M. Marty, M.D.
Director, FIU Health Travel Medicine Program

Chikungunya: MosquitoWe knew it was only a matter of time. Florida health officials have confirmed the first cases of  Chikungunya in South Floridians who had not recently traveled outside the country. That means the two people, a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County, acquired the virus from local mosquitos. So far this year, we had only seen cases of imported Chikungunya; folks who had contracted the virus while traveling overseas, mostly in the Caribbean. Now we know the Chikungunya virus has taken up residence in our own backyard; so has the dengue virus.

 On July 9, the health department reported the nation's first locally acquired case of dengue fever in Miami-Dade.  Both dengue and Chikungunya are spread by mosquitos of the genus Aedes which are abundant in South Florida.
These infections can cause long term debilitating diseases and can, at least in the case of dengue, cause a hemorrhagic and deadly disease.  Also, it is possible for a single Aedes aegypti mosquito to harbor both dengue and Chikungunya and infect you with both diseases at the same time.

What are we waiting for?   It is time for the state and local governments to conduct a major mosquito control effort aimed not only at adult mosquitos but also at their larvae.  It is also time for all South Floridians to take individual action to help eliminate breeding sites for these mosquitos.

FIU-Health encourages you to:

  • Wear light colored clothing
  • Cover Up- when you're outside, if weather permits, wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves
  • Use Repellent-Apply to bare skin and clothing.  Make sure you use repellents with picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535
  • Drain Standing Water-Mosquitos can breed in very small amounts of water; make sure you drain standing water around your house from garbage cans and buckets to flower pots and toys
  • Place mosquito-eating fish (e.g. guppies) in your ponds
  • Plant vegetation that repels mosquitos (e.g. marigolds, basil, lavender, citronella grass, catmint/catnip, rosemary, etc.) in your yards and gardens