Health Department WARNING: 3 imported chikungunya cases in Pa.

Health Department WARNING: 3 imported chikungunya cases in Pa.

PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting three imported chikungunya cases in travelers returning from the Caribbean in 2014.

Two cases of CHIK had been diagnosed in Pennsylvania in the previous ten years. All have been diagnosed in returning travelers.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

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The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain.

Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.

Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean.

Chikungunya virus is not currently found in the continental U.S.

There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers.

There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.

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.

Since there is no CHIK vaccine, the best way for people to prevent infection is to reduce exposure to infected mosquito bites via adult and larval mosquito control efforts, and public outreach.

If a returned traveler becomes ill, they should avoid being bitten by local mosquitoes during the first week of their illness to prevent virus spread in their community.

There is no treatment other than supportive care.

Persons who think they may have CHIK should seek medical attention.

More CHIK information can be found here.

A look at the inroads by the chikungunya virus in Latin America and the Caribbean:

WHAT IT IS: The name chikungunya comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania. It translates as "that which bends up," referring to arthritis-like aches in joints that cause sufferers to contort with pain. The virus is spread by two mosquitoes, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, both of which also transmit dengue fever.

WHAT IT DOES: Symptoms typically appear three to seven days after a mosquito bite and can include high fever, pain in the joints and back, and severe headache. Many sufferers can barely walk. It is rarely fatal, though there have been deaths among the elderly and people with other illnesses. Symptoms typically last about five days, but in some cases joint pain lasts for months or even years.

WHAT CAN BE DONE: There is no specific treatment or vaccine. People with the virus should rest, drink large amounts of fluids and take acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. The best strategy is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito, so authorities have stepped up pesticide spraying in the region.

WHERE IT IS FOUND: The virus has been known for decades in Africa and Asia, but the first locally transmitted case in the Western Hemisphere was documented in late 2013 in French St. Martin. There have since been more than 260,000 suspected and confirmed locally transmitted cases throughout the Caribbean and in parts of Central and South America. The Dominican Republic has reported the most with more than 135,000 cases, followed by Guadaloupe and Haiti, each with around 40,000. The number of cases in Haiti, though, is likely much higher. There have been cases of the virus being contracted by visitors to the region from many other countries, including the U.S.

WHY IT IS SO BAD IN HAITI: Many people in Haiti live in flimsy houses and have little protection from mosquitoes. There is a lot of standing water that creates breeding sites for mosquitoes.