Dengue, Chikungunya Cases Prompt Warning About Travel to Mexico, Latin America, Big Island

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A yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is shown in a file photo. (Credit: CDC)

Increased reports of the viral diseases dengue and chikungunya in Mexico, Latin America and the Big Island of Hawaii prompted California’s public health director to issue a warning to travelers on Wednesday.

State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith to urged Californians to protect themselves against mosquito bites while traveling in an effort to avoid the two mosquito-borne diseases.

“We want all Californians to be extra careful when traveling to these regions and take steps to avoid mosquito bites,” Smith said. “The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue are aggressive daytime biters.”

In 2015, 164 cases of chikungunya and 90 cases of dengue have been reported among California residents, all of whom had traveled to areas where transmission of the two viruses occurs, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The vast majority of those patients had a history of travel to Latin America: 90 percent of chikungunya cases, and 86 percent of dengue cases.

And the number of dengue cases for California patients who had traveled to Mexico has increased in the last three years, the department stated.

The outbreak of dengue on the Big Island has sickened three Californians.

Both viral diseases involve fever.

Chikungunya, first introduced in the Caribbean in late 2013, is characterized by severe joint pain. Dengue symptoms include severe headache, muscle and joint pain, rash, and, in severe cases, bleeding, according to the department.

The diseases area not contagious and there is no vaccine.

No Californians have been sickened by either virus acquired in the Golden State.

Travelers should wear protective clothing and apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, CDPH said.

Those who return from affected areas with fever and joint pain or rash were urged to contact a doctor.