With Increasing Chikungunya Cases, the Americas are Concerned
In response to the current Chikungunya virus(CHKIV) outbreak in the Region of the Americas, health experts recently conducted a webinar to increase attention to this seldom discussed disease impacting about 115 countries.
On May 4, 2023, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported chikungunya cases in the region reached over 210,000 in the first months of 2023.
Paraguay has been significantly impacted with "its worst epidemic in history with 138,730 cases."
"What we see this year are changes in magnitude and timing. The epidemic is much earlier and with more cases than the past few years," Thais dos Santos, Advisor on Surveillance and Control of Arboviral Diseases at PAHO/WHO, commented during the recent EPI-WIN webinar.
"Longer stretches of warmer periods in the south of the Americas have enabled the mosquito to do well in places where it didn't do well before," dos Santos added.
For example, a recent study indicated that disease-carrying mosquitoes are expanding their range and are moving polewards by 4.7 km annually.
The PAHO issued a warning in January and, on February 13, 203, published an alert calling on countries in the region to strengthen measures to diagnose and manage the disease.
Although seven chikungunya vaccine candidates are conducting Phase 3 clinical trials, there is no approved vaccine or specific treatment for chikungunya.
For now, the PAHO says the best protection is avoiding mosquito bites by using insecticides and nets while sleeping and exterminating mosquito breeding sites.
Before 2006, CHIKV disease was rarely identified in U.S. travelers, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC).
Beginning in 2014, chikungunya virus disease cases were reported among U.S. travelers returning from affected areas in the Americas, and local transmission was identified in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In February 2023, the CDC confirmed 36 travel-associated CHIKV cases in the U.S. during 2022.
Vax-Before-Travel publishes chikungunya outbreak news in May 2023.