The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) is urging individuals traveling to the Caribbean this summer to be wary of mosquitoes, which may transmit the chikungunya virus (CHIKV), while on their trip. The chikungunya virus is also being spread in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
"The most effective way to combat the chikungunya virus is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "Some of the most important steps to take include always wearing insect repellant and long-sleeved clothing."
The chikungunya virus causes fever and joint pain within three to seven days of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Other symptoms of the virus may include experiencing muscle aches, headaches, joint swelling or rash development. Chikungunya rarely results in death and cannot be spread person-to-person, but the symptoms can be severe.
LDH is providing educational materials to Louisiana airports to warn returning travelers about getting medical attention if they think they are infected.
"Anyone experiencing symptoms associated with chikungunya who has travelled to the Caribbean or any other area that has had virus outbreaks should immediately seek medical attention and notify the physician of their travel history," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "Avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of illness is critical to prevent further spread of the virus."
In 2014, 2,492 infections were reported in the United States, of which 11 cases were locally-transmitted in Florida. All other states reported cases that occurred in travelers returning from affected areas. Louisiana confirmed 15 travel-related cases in 2014. As of June 2, a total of 157 chikungunya virus disease cases have been reported in the U.S. this year. All reported cases occurred in travelers returning from affected areas.
The Department has gathered tips to protect you and your family from mosquito bites when traveling to countries with chikungunya outbreaks.
- Use air conditioning, mosquito bed nets, and door and window screens to protect yourself from mosquitoes while indoors.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots and buckets.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants as often as possible.
- Use insect repellents when going outdoors or when there is an opportunity to be bitten by a mosquito.
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen before the repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.
This is the fourth article in a series of Summer Safety advisories the Department will send out this summer. Check back each Wednesday throughout the summer for more safety information.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.