DOH Alert: Three Imported Cases of Chikungunya Virus in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is reporting three imported Chikungunya (CHIK) cases in travelers returning from the Caribbean this year. Two cases of CHIK had been diagnosed in Pennsylvania in the past 10 years, all in returning travelers.

In a July 3 alert, DOH reminded physicians and patients that:

  • The CHIK virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.
  • The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
  • The CHIK virus is not currently found in the continental U.S., though there is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers.
  • The time from virus infection to onset of disease symptoms is usually three to seven days. Acute symptoms typically resolve within seven to 10 days. Some patients experience a relapse of arthritis.
  • Complications include uveitis, retinitis, myocarditis, hepatitis, nephritis, hemorrhages, meningoencephalitis, myelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, cranial nerve palsies, and/or death.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent nor medicine to treat the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that health care providers test all ill returned travelers for CHIK and dengue to improve clinical outcomes, since both share endemic areas and the same Aedes vector mosquito, co-infection occurs, and no good differential diagnostic signs or symptoms exist.

A laboratory diagnosis for either disease requires that blood be sent for testing for the presence of the virus, or antibodies. Pennsylvania Bureau of Laboratories (BOL) does not offer CHIK testing but the tests are available at commercial laboratories.

Cases of arbovirus infection should be entered into Pennsylvania’s web-based electronic disease surveillance system, PA-NEDSS. For mosquito-related questions, please call your local health department or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (877-724-3258).

More information on the CHIK virus can be found on the CDC’s website.