State health officials have confirmed the first case of chikungunya virus in South Carolina.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday that the unidentified Upstate patient recently returned from a trip to Haiti, where it’s suspected they contracted the mosquito-born virus.
“The chikungunya virus is spread from person to person by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito,” Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist with DHEC, said in a statement. “People who are traveling to areas where mosquito-borne viruses have been identified should take extra precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
She said chikungunya can cause headaches, fever, joint swelling and muscle pain. It is rarely fatal, but it can cause long-term pain even after the victim recovers. Historically, the virus has affected people in Africa and Asia. But it is appearing in the Western hemisphere for the first time this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says travelers have brought chikungunya to 28 states
So far, the disease has only infected those travelers. But health officials worry it could only be a matter of time before a one of those victims is bitten by a mosquito in South Carolina. That mosquito could then also bite a healthy person, spreading the virus.
The agency is asking people who recently visited the Caribbean and believe they may have been infected to contact their health care provider. They also ask those travelers to stay at home for a week and avoid passing on the virus to mosquitos in the U.S.