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Highlands health officials confirm case of chikungunya fever

– The Florida Department of Health in Highlands County has confirmed a case of imported chikungunya fever, a disease spread by bites from infected mosquitoes.

The person infected had traveled to the Dominican Republic and is presently recovering from the infection.

“Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection with chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases,” said the administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Highlands County, Mary Kay Burns.

“Floridians and visitors are encouraged to take precautionary measures to help reduce the chance of being bitten. Remember to drain and cover,” she said.

The health department suggests ways to prevent contracting the illness, such as:

Draining water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.

Discarding old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.

Emptying and cleaning birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once or twice a week.

Protecting boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.

Maintaining swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated; emptying plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Covering skin with clothing or repellent; wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeves.

Applying mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.

Always using repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 are effective.

Covering doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out; keeping mosquitoes out of your house. Repairing broken screens on windows, doors, porches and patios.

People at increased risk for severe disease include newborns exposed during delivery, older adults over 65 years and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Symptoms of chikungunya include sudden onset of high fever (over 102 degrees), severe joint pain mainly in the arms and legs, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash.

Symptoms appear on average three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most patients feel better after a few days or weeks, however, some people may develop long-term effects. Complications are more common in infants younger than a year old, those older than 65 and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

If these symptoms of chikungunya fever are felt, consult with a healthcare provider immediately and protect against further mosquito bites. Avoiding mosquito bites while sick will help to protect others from getting infected.

For information on chikungunya, see www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/chikungunya.html or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya.