Florida Health officials Thursday confirmed the first locally acquired cases of the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya. The two cases are the first instances in the U.S. in which the virus was not contracted during Caribbean travel, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The infected individuals were described as a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County who began experiencing symptoms on June 10, and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County, who first noticed symptoms July 1.
Officials said that chikungunya — spread by bites from infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes — is not contagious from person to person, is typically not life-threatening and will likely resolve on its own.
In both cases, Florida officials said, a person infected with the virus after visiting the Caribbean was then bitten again by an uninfected mosquito in Florida, which then transmitted the illness further.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people infected with chikungunya virus typically develop fever and joint pain. Other symptoms can include muscle aches, headaches, joint swelling or rash.
"There is no broad risk to the health of the general public," said Celeste Philip, Florida's Deputy Secretary for Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children's Medical Services.
Since 2006, the U.S. has averaged 28 imported cases of chikungunya per year in travelers returning from countries where the virus is common, CDC said. To date this year, 243 travel-associated cases have been reported in 31 states and two territories.
However, the newly reported case represents the first time that mosquitoes in the continental U.S. are thought to have spread the virus to a non-traveler. This year, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reported 121 and two cases of locally acquired chikungunya, respectively.
Federal and state health officials are assessing whether there are additional locally acquired cases in the continental U.S., the CDC said.
Anna Likos, State Epidemiologist and Disease Control and Health Protection Director for Florida, encouraged citizens to take precautions against mosquitoes to prevent chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases. Those precautions include draining standing water, covering the skin with clothing and repellent, and covering doors and windows with screens.
Contributing: The Associated Press