As thousands of Tennesseans return from their spring-break beach vacations or plan a summer trip, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding travelers about the importance of protection from mosquitoes.
Of particular concern, said state entomologist Abelardo Moncayo, are those pests that may carry the chikungunya virus, which poses a risk to humans and could have major consequences if it spreads to the United States.
"If you go to someplace in the Caribbean or now in Latin America, and you suddenly have fever, joint pain, especially in your hands and feet," he said, "that is a good indication you might have chikungunya."
Before 2013, chikungunya was found in Africa, Asia and Europe, but spread last summer to areas south of the United States. To protect yourself while in at-risk areas, Moncayo recommended using insect repellent and treating your clothes with a product containing Permethrin.
If you suspect you have chikungunya, the Tennessee Department of Health recommends you contact a health-care provider immediately, treat your fever and pain with over-the-counter medicines, and get lots of rest. Moncayo added that it's very important to avoid contact with other mosquitoes to prevent the spread of the disease in Tennessee.
"What we're trying to do is keep it out of Tennessee," he said, "and the only way to do that is by asking people that do travel and then come back, and they experience these symptoms to go see their physician."
There is currently no medicine to treat chikungunya or vaccine to prevent it. Most patients feel better within a week, but joint pain may persist for several months.
More information is online at wwwnc.cdc.gov.