What is Chikungunya and how can it be stopped? - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

What is Chikungunya and how can it be stopped?

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Local health departments are on alert now that cases of a rare mosquito-borne disease are popping up around the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 129 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in the United States. The Department of Public Health says five people in Alabama have tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: Mosquito-transmitted Chikungunya disease confirmed in Alabama

Chikungunya was first spotted in the Caribbean in October of last year and has since spread to epidemic levels. Though not usually deadly, Chikungunya can be very painful.

"Usually you get a significant fever, often times to 103 to 104. You get a rash, generally a generalized rash on your body. And as well you get joint symptoms,” UAB’s Dr. David Freedman described.

Freedman is the Director of the UAB Travelers' Health Clinic. He’s been following the disease closely for many months. According to him, the US cases of Chikungunya didn't start here.

“These are imported cases; there's not been any local spread yet on the US. These are people that travel to the Caribbean and Latin America and got the disease there," Freedman said.

Right now, Chikungunya is not a direct threat to the US, but there is concern about what could happen down the road.

“If enough cases start getting imported to the United States, mosquitoes here in the United States could pick it up then transmit it to somebody else that has never traveled," Freedman explained.

There's no available vaccine or medication for the disease, but there is a way to prevent it. Freedman says the best form of prevention is to use mosquito repellant to avoid getting bit.

"You need to use something that has at least 30 percent DEET. The common brands like Off and Cutters areDEETt containing but they come in many flavors,” Freedman said. “You just need to look on the containers and see that the that the concentration of DEET is at least 30 percent.”

Freedman added that he believes the disease will die down some with time, but precautions should be taken now.

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