Though chikungunya, last year's infectious disease fashion, slipped from headlines it is nonetheless a significant virus that is in the midst of its first ever foray into the Western Hemisphere. Spread by the now all too familiar, Aedes mosquitoes this virus has the penchant for causing severe disease characterized by debilitating arthritis. There is no vaccine and no treatment for chikungunya.
There have been millions of cases since this outbreak began in the Caribbean and even about a dozen cases of local spread in Florida -- a hotspot for Aedes transmitted diseases.
Yesterday, however, local spread was reported in Cameron County, Texas. Cameron County is a Mexico-bordering county and is an area that is a national leader when it comes to another Aedes-related infection: dengue. The close proximity to Mexico confers a continual dengue-risk. When my colleagues and I conducted a research project on dengue response in the US, Cameron County public health authorities were near the top of those we wanted to speak with.
It will be interesting to see how Texas ramps up anti-Aedes activities which are already enhanced due to the threat of Zika. Perhaps this is another area in which GMO mosquitoes should be considered? I suspect that the local populace, more attuned to the risk of dengue, would be more receptive to the idea than other locales.
It is unfortunate that chikungunya has slipped from the headlines because local spread in Texas is a significant event that merits more attention -- maybe we need another celebrity to become infected.