Nutmeggers affected by new virus

A mosquito-borne virus, new to Connecticut, has infected 11 state residents this year. It is the chikungunya virus, which caused an outbreak of illness on the French island of St. Martin in December 2013. There have also been 44 confirmed cases in New York and 25 in New Jersey.

Since then, according to the state Department of Public Health, cases of chikungunya fever have occurred throughout the Western Hemisphere.

All the infected Connecticut residents acquired the disease while traveling out of the country: six in the Dominican Republic, four in Haiti, and one in St. Martin.

Chikungunya viral infections are rarely fatal, according to the DPH, and symptoms include fever, severe joint pain, swelling, and rashes. Arthritis-like symptoms can last for years. Because it is a virus, there is no treatment other than to treat symptoms with rest, fluids, and pain medications.

As of July 18, local transmission — meaning mosquitoes in the area have been infected and are spreading chikungunya to people — has been identified in 24 countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control more than 436,000 suspected, and 5,724 confirmed, cases of chikungunya virus have been reported from these areas.

The CDC says the virus will likely continue to spread to new areas in the Americas through infected people and mosquitoes. Since it is new to this area, most people are not immune to this disease, meaning they can be infected and spread the virus to other mosquitoes. The mosquitoes most likely to transmit the virus are active during the day, making it important for people to take measures to avoid mosquito bites.