The WHO confirmed 10 cases of the chikungunya virus among residents of St. Martin in the Caribbean. These are the first cases of local transmission in the Western hemisphere. Chikungunya virus can cause sudden, severe joint pain in addition to fever, rash, headaches, muscle pain, or even death. Although no specific treatment or vaccine is available, patients typically recover in one week. This RNA virus is normally transmitted via mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and albopictus, which are ubiquitous in the tropics and recently were introduced into urban areas in the United States. Since high titer viremia can last for approximately 6 days and up to 25% of cases can be asymptomatic, the risk for transfusion transmission has been estimated to be as high as 150 per 10,000 donations. A 2007 outbreak of chikungunya in Italy temporally halted blood donations, but CDC director Dr. Tomas Frieden reported that “CDC experts have predicted and prepared for its arrival for several years and there are surveillance systems in place to help us track it.” Since the Caribbean hosts about 9 million U.S. travelers yearly, the chikungunya virus could easily spread to local U.S. mosquito pools.
1. CDC Press Release: First reports of Chikungunya in Western Hemisphere. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p1218-chikungunyas.html. Accessed December 26, 2013.