Thursday, June 12, 2014

KU Hospital: New Mosquito threat this summer

KANSAS CITY, KAN.— Mosquitoes are on the move again and with them the potentially dangerous diseases they carry. 

West Nile, malaria, yellow fever, and St. Louis encephalitis are some of the more common diseases carried by mosquitoes and now a new threat is emerging from a disease found for the first time last year in the Americas in the islands of the Caribbean. 

“Chikungunya virus gets its name from outbreaks in East Africa dating back to the 1950’s,” Lee Norman, MD, chief medical officer with The University of Kansas Hospital said. “It has nothing to do with chickens, instead the name describes the posture of people who suffer Chikungunya as they stoop from the pain in their joints.  Chikungunya sufferers say it feels like a combination of severe flu and severe arthritis.”

Chikungunya virus is a serious illness and Kansas public health officials are studying the disease and the mosquito that carries it to learn more while medical experts like Dr. Norman keep a watchful eye for the symptoms in people who fall sick - especially after traveling to the Caribbean.

Whether traveling or sitting in your backyard, Dr. Norman says to consider wearing light colored, long sleeves and pants when outdoors.  If you use DEET products, make sure the strength is 30 percent or less and consider spraying on your clothing as well as skin. 

If possible, sit next to a fan as mosquitoes find it difficult to fly and land in a breeze.  Lastly, avoid perfumes and colognes as research shows mosquitoes are attracted to different scents.