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Health officials: 2 Floridians infected with unusual mosquito-borne virus

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NEW YORK -

Health officials say mosquitoes in the United States are now transmitting a virus that has been rapidly spreading in the Caribbean.

Two people in Florida have been infected and Florida health officials are reporting the first locally acquired cases of the mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya (chih-kihn-GUHN'-yuh).

The two patients had not recently traveled outside the U.S. Scientists believe a mosquito bit someone with the virus, and then bit someone else, infecting that person.

"The virus is unusual because something like three quarters of the people who are bitten do have symptoms after infection," said Dr. James Crowe, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Chikungunya virus is not usually deadly. Symptoms include fever and joint pain as well as muscle aches, headaches, joint swelling and rash.

"Typically, people are better and well after a week but sometimes there joint symptoms go on for weeks and months," said Crowe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been more than 240 cases of the virus reported in the U.S. so far, but those people are believed to have been infected outside the country. Health experts say there is no need to panic, but it's always a good idea to try to avoid mosquito bites.

"Use bug spray if you're going out, use long sleeves and pants when you're in areas with mosquitoes," said Crowe.

The two Florida patients are a 41-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man. Both are said to be doing well.

Researchers say there is no vaccine to prevent the virus but several vaccines are currently being developed.

 

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