Chikungunya: The Mosquito-Borne Virus Explained

While the mosquito-borne virus has spread throughout Central American and the Caribbean, it's only in southern U.S. states so far.
Posted at 11:32 AM, Jul 04, 2014

The picnics, the bug spray warnings, the macro-focused pictures of mosquitoes. Get ready, America. The latest mosquito virus scare has a name as you sit out for that Fourth of July barbecue. (Via Flickr / Camponotus Vagus / Daniele Benucci)

"Coupled with the sonovial thickening in the joints, I think we're looking at the chikungunya virus."

"Chik-V? That's found in Africa, isn't it?" (Via TNT / "Bones")

It's fair to say if you first hear of a virus through a basic cable crime drama, it hasn't reached the American mainstream yet. There's a reason for that. Chikungunya so far hasn't reached much beyond southern U.S. states like Florida.

DEIAH RILEY, WFTS ANCHOR: "Health officials are now telling us Pinellas County has its first confirmed case of this virus. This latest victim had recently traveled to the Caribbean like many others already diagnosed. ... This virus is rarely deady, but it can severe and even disabling pain."

While the virus appears to have originated in Africa, countries in Central America and the Caribbean like San Salvador and Haiti are now trying to fumigate neighborhoods to control chikungunya's spread. (Via CNN)

Al Jazeera noted in April, U.S. states might see the virus soon because of its makeup and travelers not realizing they were carriers.

TOM ACKERMAN, AL JAZEERA REPORTER: "Because it's been observed in temperate climates, the virus is expected to eventually reach the U.S."

DR. KRISTY MURRY, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: "It more than likely will be introduce here into the United States and be our next West Nile."

And there's the phrase no one wanted to hear.

NBC reports since West Nile reached the U.S. in 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented roughly 40,000 cases, and 1,668 died from infection.

It remains to be seen whether chikungunya will cause the kind of massive media coverage we saw with West Nile or something closer to the false panic of the Africanized, or "killer," bees from the 1970s.

CHEVY CHASE, NBC / "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": "Wait a minute ... you must be the —"

ELLIOTT GOULD: "That's right, gringo. The killer bees!"

All jokes aside, the virus is a serious health concern in areas where fumigation isn't working and access to health care isn't as abundant as the U.S. (Via TeleSUR)

NBC reports chikungunya got its name from the word in Mozambique that describes the intense joint pain caused by the virus. There is no current cure for the virus, though the National Institutes of Health gave the University of Texas Medical Branch a four-year, $3 million grant to try to find one in 2011.