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Health officials issue warning over outbreaks of virus: 'Poses a significant risk'

It's part of a concerning trend of increasing incidence rates for vector-borne diseases.

It's part of a concerning trend of increasing incidence rates for vector-borne diseases.

Photo Credit: iStock

A mosquito-borne disease that causes patients to contort their bodies in pain is wreaking havoc in the tropics and subtropics, endangering billions of people across the world.

What's happening?

Healthcare officials from Precision Vaccination have raised alarm bells over the Chikungunya virus after several outbreaks in 2024.  

It means "that which bends up" in the East African language of Kimakonde, referring to the posture victims bitten by an infected mosquito typically take. Other symptoms include acute fevers over 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit, arthritis, stiffness, and rashes. While mortality rates are under 1%, up to half of affected people experience chronic joint pain.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, there have been nearly 168,000 cases reported of Chikungunya and 50 deaths worldwide across 17 countries this year as of March 31. 

Over 96% of the global total has happened in Brazil, with Paraguay a distant second at 3%. Of the nations that have reported cases, 11 are in the Americas, five are in Asia, and one is in Africa.

The CDC's most recent data from 2022 shows that 81 people in the U.S. had Chikungunya in 2022, and all the cases were travel-associated. However, in the past, there have been local transmissions identified in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Why is the outbreak concerning?

The current trajectory of the disease in 2024 is on pace to increase by around 46% from last year. The World Health Organization released an update last year that 110 countries had reported transmission of Chikungunya and estimated that 4 billion people across 110 nations were at risk of exposure.

It's part of a concerning trend of increasing incidence rates for vector-borne diseases. Several viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, such as dengue, Zika, and malaria, have become more common because of rising global temperatures and threaten to overburden healthcare systems.

Extreme weather events have created more breeding sites for mosquitoes, while warmer climates have allowed for more habitable regions for the insect. 

What can I do to protect myself from Chikungunya?

The CDC recommends covering up while exploring the great outdoors to minimize skin exposure and prevent mosquitoes from biting you. It also lists some EPA-registered repellants, though they can still have some adverse health effects. 

Hopefully, insecticide-free sprays like the one Kao Corporation has developed will soon be publicly available.

There is also an FDA-approved vaccine, Ixchiq, that can be useful in mitigating the effects of Chikungunya for those 18 years or older and traveling to countries where the disease is endemic. 

"Chikungunya poses a significant risk to individuals journeying to or residing in regions where the chikungunya virus and its mosquito vectors thrive. We embrace the ACIP endorsement, marking IXCHIQ as the only approved and recommended vaccine for the target population," said Juan Carlos Jaramillo, Chief Medical Officer of Valneva, which developed the vaccine.

"We will continue collaborating with regulatory authorities worldwide to increase the accessibility of IXCHIQ across regions."

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