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Mosquito virus makes its way from Caribbean

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 9:21 p.m.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Health officials are reporting that for the first time, mosquitoes are spreading a virus in the United States that has been tearing through the Caribbean.

Two people in Florida have domestically acquired chikungunya infections, officials said on Thursday. In both cases, they said, a person infected with the virus after visiting the Caribbean was then bitten again by an uninfected mosquito in Florida, which transmitted the illness further.

Officials urged residents to prevent bites but said there was no cause for alarm. “There is no broad risk to the health of the general public,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, a public health official with the Department of Health.

Federal officials noted it's an unfortunate milestone in the spread of a painful infectious disease that has raced across the Caribbean this year and is apparently now taking root in the United States.

“The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chikungunya virus is rarely fatal. Infected people typically suffer fever, severe joint pain and swelling, muscle aches, headaches or rash. Patients usually recover in about a week, although some people suffer long-term joint pain. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for it.

This virus is not spread person to person, but rather by the bite of certain mosquitoes. That's why health officials believe the virus is spreading here — the two cases had not recently left the country.

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