PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pennsylvania Health Department issued an alert about a special type of virus being spread by mosquitoes.
It’s called Chikungunya and the virus is spread by several different types of mosquitoes. It can cause fever and joint pain.
Until now, the virus hasn’t shown up much in the United States. However, this summer is supposed to be especially bad for mosquitoes.
In the past seven years, about 28 cases have been reported each year in the U.S. This year, though, 129 cases have already been reported. According to the Health Department, only three of this year’s cases were reported in Pennsylvania.
So far, none of the cases have been caused by mosquitoes within the United States. The people who came down with the virus all traveled abroad, mostly to the Caribbean.
“They get sick when they’re back at home,” says Bill Todaro of the Allegheny County Health Department. “They’re sick for three or four days, and then it resolves.”
Health officials are worried the virus could spread to the mosquitoes here.
“If people come back from the Caribbean with this virus in them, and they get bitten by mosquitoes at home, those mosquitoes in turn bite other people, and we have an endemic transmission,” says Todaro.
In addition to tropical mosquitoes, Asian tiger mosquitoes can also transmit the virus.
The Health Department hoped that the harsh winter killed most of them off. Asian tiger mosquitoes usually die if the temperature drops below 10 degrees.
But, that wasn’t the case.
“Unfortunately, it’s still here. The cold we did have last winter did not kill it. We’re already getting mosquito, Asian tiger mosquitoes here in Bloomfield and Lawrenceville,” says Todaro.
Asian tiger mosquitoes are one of the three types that the Health Department targets each year in the Pittsburgh area. While they’re keeping an eye on the Chikungunya virus, West Nile is still their top priority.
So far, one mosquito has tested positive for West Nile in our area. It was in a sample taken from Beaver County.
To help curb the spread of all viruses spread by mosquitoes, officials are spraying catch water basins and encouraging residents to empty, or properly treat, any standing water on their property.