WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

U.S. Army responds to threat of chikungunya in U.S.

The U.S. Army Public Health Command (USAPHC) recently responded to the rapidly emerging threat of chikungunya viral infection, which may spread from affected Caribbean regions to the U.S. mainland.

As of July 15, the Centers for Disease Control reported approximately 234 travel-related cases of chikungunya in the U.S., brought in by travelers to the Caribbean. Two cases of locally acquired chikungunya were recently reported in Florida, according to an U.S. Army press release.

Though the chikungunya virus is not new to the medical world, its presence in the Caribbean has prompted concern from health officials that the virus, which is spread by two species of mosquito commonly found in the U.S., could manage to spread.

Experts have monitored the spread of the virus by tracking reports from medical providers. The virus is most often spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

Isolating the infected from further mosquito bites and tracking the location of mosquitoes that carry the virus may also help prevent the spread of the chikungunya virus.

"Surveillance of mosquito populations in and around installations is done with the goal of finding the presences of the virus before human cases occur," Brian Knott, an entomologist with the USAPHC, said. "The mosquitoes that carry the virus bite mostly during the daytime. Understanding the behavior of the vector can help in educating soldiers about prevention."

Other preventative measures may include preventing mosquitoes from reproducing. Mosquitoes that carry the virus are container-breeders-a trait that could help entomologists and environmental personnel more easily conduct surveillance.

"Carbon dioxide-baited traps are used to collect mosquitoes for surveillance on installations," Knott said. "In addition, deploying the new lethal ovitrap can help cut down on the numbers of these mosquitoes by killing the females who use the trap to lay their eggs."