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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: July 25, 2014


DOVER (July 24, 2014) - The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today the first Delaware case ever of chikungunya virus in a 51-year-old Sussex County man. The case is linked to recent travel to the Caribbean. The man was treated for his symptoms in early July and was never admitted to the hospital. DPH was notified of the case today.

Chikungunya cases have also been diagnosed in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, including at least two cases in Philadelphia. The disease is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Person-to-person transmission is rare and there are no documented cases of human transmission in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 280 cases in the continental US and only two are not associated with travel. (Florida is the only state that has seen cases that are not related to travel. The state announced last week two cases acquired in residents from local mosquitoes.)

Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) is a potentially debilitating disease characterized by acute onset of fever and joint pains occurring after an incubation period of three to seven days. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. People at risk for more severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults age 65 and older, and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.

"Given global travel habits, we considered the disease coming to Delaware almost inevitable," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "Because there is no anti-viral medication to treat chikungunya and we now know the disease can be locally acquired like in the two Florida cases, it is especially important that people protect themselves from mosquito-borne disease."

To prevent mosquito-borne infections, DPH recommends:

Take extra precautions when mosquitoes are active, especially at dusk and early morning hours. When working outside, wear protective clothing such as shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Mosquito repellents containing DEET can be applied to the skin but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. The current American Academy of Pediatricians and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET, the mosquito repellent. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age. The effectiveness is similar for 10% to 30% DEET but the duration of effect varies. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30% protects for about 5 hours. Choose the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage. Mosquito netting can also be used to protect one's face and neck, or used on infant carriages, strollers and playpens.

Keep windows and doorways tightly sealed, and maintain window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering the house. Note that electronic repellents that emit high frequency sounds do not repel mosquitoes or other pests. Electronic "bug zappers" do not control mosquitoes or other flying pests, but in fact kill bugs indiscriminately, including many beneficial insects that prey on pests. Eliminating or managing standing water around your house is the best method to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your backyard: Change birdbath water every week. Regularly drain pet dishes and plant pot saucers. Regularly clean and repair gutters to prevent them from retaining water. Regularly check and drain plastic covers and tarps used outside such as pool covers, whirlpool tub covers, garbage can lids, compost covers and gardening tarps. Store water-trapping containers such as wading pools, wheelbarrows and buckets upside down or inside shelters. Manage habitats in and around water bodies such as ornamental and retention ponds, ditches and catch basins: Manage weeds; keep vegetation short around water. Adult mosquitoes are attracted to dense, tall vegetation around water. Remove unnecessary floating structures or debris from ponds. Mosquitoes are often found around floating debris. Keep drains, ditches and culverts clean to allow proper drainage. Consider stocking ornamental or permanent, self-contained ponds with insect-eating fish, such as goldfish. Shape pond edges to a shelf or steep slope. Mosquitoes prefer shallow pond edges.

For additional information regarding mosquito-borne diseases or to report a case of chikungunya virus, call the Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology: 1-888-295-5156 or 302-744-1033.

For more tips on preventing mosquito bites, visit www.cdc.gov/features/stopmosquitoes/.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.