25 New Jersey residents test positive for Chikungunya virus after Caribbean travel

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Dr. Sapna Parikh reports on how officials are trying to control the mosquitos. (WABC)

Twenty-five New Jersey residents have tested positive for the chikungunya virus, according to the state health department.

The mosquito-borne virus has spread through the Caribbean, and the first two cases in the United Stated were reported last week in Florida.

Bergen County reported the most cases with six, while Hudson and Passaic had three each. Nationwide, the total number of travel-related cases has risen to 398, up 33% percent from last week.

Health officials said the virus is not contagious from person to person, is typically not life threatening and will likely resolve on its own.

Once a week, mosquito control experts in New Jersey set up traps to collect mosquitoes. For years, they've tested for the West Nile Virus, but for the first time they are also looking for the chikungunya virus.

Greg Williams, director of the Hudson County mosquito control for the county Environmental Health Agency, said new traps use bait that smells like human sweat to attract the Asian tiger mosquito, which transmits the chikungunya virus.

"We're randomly sampling around the county, collecting mosquitos (and) submitting them for testing, Williams said.

Williams said for now it's unlikely that mosquitoes carry the virus but it is possible and they do carry West Nile. "The mosquitoes that transmit this come from people's backyards so you want to eliminate all standing water," he said.

If a person tests positive for chikungunya and is then bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the infection by biting another person.

Infection with chikungunya virus is rarely fatal, but the joint pain can often be severe and debilitating. Other symptoms include high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash.

Symptoms appear on average three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, the health department says. Most patients feel better after a few days or weeks, however, some people may develop long-term effects.

Complications are more common in infants younger than a year old; those older than 65; and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

The state health department said the residents who came down with chikungunya had returned to New Jersey from the Caribbean.

If you travel to the Caribbean and notice symptoms three to seven days later -- tell your doctor you just traveled even if they don't ask.


NJ DOH protection link:

Hudson County Environmental Health Agency:

For more information about chikungunya:

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