Chikungunya illness at St. Louis region's doorstep

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Soon the West Nile Virus won't be the only mosquito-borne illness you'll need to worry about. St. Louis County has just confirmed its first case of Chikungunya.

"My knees mostly felt like I needed to have a walker," said Bill Hardy, who spoke to WTSP after he caught Chikungunya while traveling in the Dominican Republic. "I started feeling old."

Hardy started feeling the debilitating joint pain that gave Chikungunya its name.

"It literally means that which bends up or gets contorted with pain," said Dr. Faisal Khan, St. Louis County Health Department Director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control.

A local woman who spoke with NewsChannel 5 said her legs hurt so badly she could barely move them after she returned from the Dominican Republic this summer. Her doctor is testing to see whether she will become another confirmed case in the St. Louis region. So far there are roughly 300 confirmed cases nationwide. Only two of those patients caught Chikungunya while they were in the U.S. But doctors say that's about to change.

"In a few years, at the very least, if not a little earlier, we expect to see local transmission of Chikungunya taking place," said Khan.

That's because the mosquito species that carries the virus is in the St. Louis region. Those mosquitoes haven't caught the disease yet. But, once they do, more people will be coming down with the Chikungunya joint ache, rash, and fever.

The virus can only be spread through mosquitoes, not person to person. The CDC has started researching for a vaccine. Right now, the only treatment is mild painkillers and a lot of rest.


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