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First Local Case of Tropical Disease Chikungunya Debuts in the U.S.

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Remove potential mosquito-friendly habitat. Credit: U.S. EPA

The day we knew would come is finally here. The first locally acquired case of the tropical disease chikungunya was reported in the U.S. today.

The mosquito-borne viral disease first debuted in the Western Hemisphere last year and has since sprawled across the Caribbean, with cases in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The first U.S.-infected patient is a man in Florida who had not recently traveled outside the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far this year, 243 cases have occurred in the U.S. but all of those stemmed from travelers returning from other countries where the virus is thriving.

The infection causes joint and muscle pain that persists for weeks. In rare circumstances the pain can remain for years. Currently, no vaccines or therapies exist for the virus (except pain killers). Public health experts advise communities to clear out standing water near their homes to curtail prime real estate for mosquitoes.

Scientific American has tracked the disease’s steady progression across the Caribbean. See some of our recent coverage below, and stay tuned for where the disease goes in the coming months.

In December 2013 - Debilitating Virus Infects Island Paradise

In February 2014 - Mosquitoes Carry Yet Another Tropical Disease toward the U.S.

In June 2014 - Nasty Mosquito-Borne Virus, Now in Puerto Rico, Expanding its Reach

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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