Mosquito pool in Harris Co. tests positive for chikungunya

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A mosquito in Harris County has tested positive for the Chikungunya virus. This marks a new phase in the spread of the virus.

The first mosquito pool tested positive for Chikungunya in the 77041 zip code near Jersey Village. The viral disease new to these parts this year only adds to the concern about mosquito transmitted diseases.

The Harris County Health Department has sent the sample off for further testing. Already West Nile cases are up this year. The health department on Wednesday announced nine new human cases in Harris County.

"This time we have just started August, and we are already eclispsing all records," says Dr. Mustapha Debboun, the director of the Mosquito Control Division of the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services.

To better protect the public and get to hard to reach spots, the county is doing aerial spraying using EPA-approved Dibrom Thursday night in certain quadrants of the county -- a section on the northwest side and the northeast side.

"Is it going to kill all? No, but at least it will minimize the problem," Debboun said.

People become infected with Chikungunya through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day. Chikungunya is not spread from person-to-person contact.

Preventive measure include using mosquito repellents, covering exposed arms and legs, making sure to empty containers with standing water, etc.

Unlike West Nile Virus, in which 20 percent of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will develop symptoms, 90 percent of people bitten by a mosquito carrying chikunguyna get the virus.

While chikungunya is not transmitted from direct person to person contact, a person with the disease can be the source of the virus for mosquitoes that can then transmit the virus to others through a bite. To prevent the spread of the disease, people with chikungunya illness should be especially careful to avoid exposure to mosquitoes during the first week of illness.

Infections are rarely fatal but can cause severe joint pain, high fever, head and muscle aches, joint swelling and rash. Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by a mosquito. There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus. Most people feel better within a week, though some people may develop longer-term joint pain.

Experts encourage people to protect themselves from mosquito bites at home and while traveling. The Aedes mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya are active and bite during the day. Precautions include:

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside, and follow label instructions.

  • Drain standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outside.

  • Use air conditioning or make sure doors and windows are screened to keep mosquitoes outside.
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