Chikungunya – The New Mosquito Borne Illness in Virginia

Chikungunya, a viral infection transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, originated in southeast Africa and was first described in Tanzania in 1952.

It is a painful, mosquito-borne viral illness and has surfaced across the United States, carried by recent travelers to the Caribbean where the virus is raging.

Typical symptoms of Chikungunya infection include the rapid onset of severe joint pains (especially in the hands and feet) and fever. In fact, the name "Chikungunya" derives from a word in the Kimakonde language of south east Africa, meaning "to become contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain. Symptoms start four to eight days after the mosquito bite (range from two to 12 days). Infected persons can also have headache, muscle pain, rash and joint swelling. Generally, symptoms resolve after one week, although some people may experience long-term joint pain. Chikungunya is generally not fatal, but the painful symptoms have led people to say "It won't kill you, but it may make you wish you were dead!"

Health officials in North Carolina, Nebraska and Indiana this week reported the first confirmed chikungunya cases in those states, along with Tennessee, which has suspected cases. Florida’s 25 cases account for the majority reported in the United States, according to state health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cases in the continental United States have not been transmitted by local mosquitoes, which would raise the threat.

Chikungunya, West Nile virus and other public health threats have become an issue in Virginia and across the United States in recent years. Citizens are asking what they can do to protect themselves, even in their own backyards. 


  • Contact a local Pest Management Professional. They can help homeowners reduce their exposure to mosquito bites by inspecting properties for breeding sites, treating to control mosquitoes in some cases or suggesting corrective actions, and educating homeowners and businesses about mosquitoes.


  • Eliminate or reduce mosquito-breeding areas by replacing all standing water at least once per week. This includes birdbaths, ponds and unfiltered pools.

  • Remove unneeded vegetation or trash from around any standing water sources that cannot be changed, dumped or removed.

  • Introduce mosquito-eating fish such as gambusia, green sunfish, bluefish and minnows to standing water.

  • Seal and screen all windows, doors, and other openings.

  • Avoid going outdoors when and where mosquitoes are most active: during dusk or dawn.

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin whenever or wherever mosquitoes are likely to bite. The most effective repellents currently available contain the active ingredient DEET in concentrations up to about 35% (greater concentrations don’t offer better protection).

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants preferably treated with repellant as well.

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