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Protecting yourself from mosquito-borne disease

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LAWTON, Okla._In Oklahoma, we've been aware of the West Nile virus for a few years, but now, there's a new disease, also spread by mosquitoes that officials are alerting us to.

It's the chikungunya virus, or CHIKV for short. It's been found in 15 states and so far there have been six cases in Oklahoma. None of those cases have been reported in southwest Oklahoma.

The virus causes the same basic symptoms as the West Nile virus and is transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected person, and then injects that blood into another person through another bite.

Although it has been reported in 15 states, the virus did not originate in the United States. Health officials believe it's been brought here from Americans who've traveled outside the country, were bitten by infected mosquitoes, and then brought back to the U.S.

Leslie Beavers, a Comanche County health educator, says it is a foreign virus that was contracted by travelers.

"All six of these were from people who were outside of the United States. For someone who has traveled in the Caribbean islands and got bitten by mosquitoes, if they develop those symptoms, they need to isolate themselves for seven days,” said Beavers.

Aside from the Caribbean, the disease is also occurring in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Beavers also said that the most common symptoms are headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash. The symptoms won't begin until after three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and most of those symptoms can be alleviated through pain medication.

Beavers says for those who have to travel, for example on mission trips, there is still a away to stay safe.

"When traveling to those other countries, to make sure that they use a mosquito repellent with DEET in it. And to make sure they cover up as much as possible," said Beavers.

Beavers also warned that people should stay away from standing water and symptoms could have different effects on different people. Symptoms could be more severe in infants and adults over the age of 65. Beavers is also warning those who have diabetes, heart disease, HIV, or cancer to take extra precaution.

Most people feel better after about a week, but the joint pain may persist for months and in some cases, years.

There is no vaccine currently available for the virus.


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