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Chikungunya: Questions and Answers

What to Know About the Mosquito-Borne Virus That Has Emerged in the Caribbean
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WebMD Health News

Editor's note: This was updated July 17, 2014.

June 17, 2014 -- A crippling mosquito-borne virus with a tongue-twisting name -- chikungunya -- has spread to the Caribbean, and U.S. travelers have brought it home to more than half the states in the U.S.

Here's what you should know about this virus and how to lower your risk of infection, especially if you're traveling to the Caribbean. While the virus remains rare in the U.S., no vaccine is available.

What is chikungunya virus?

The virus is mainly “spread from person to person through mosquitoes," says Kristy Murray, DVM, PhD, an infectious disease specialist in Houston.

It's pronounced "chik-en-gun-ye."

''It's an African word, and it translates to 'that which bends up,'" Murray says, because people bend up with joint pain, one of the most common symptoms.

Where did it come from, and how does it spread?

Scientists believe the virus originated in 1952 in southern Tanzania. Chimpanzees or other animals were probably first infected, says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist in Pittsburgh.

Mosquitoes that bit these animals became infected, then bit and infected people.

The virus can stay in a person's system for about a week, according to the World Health Organization.

When a mosquito feeds on an infected person, the mosquito can become infected and can bite and infect others.

The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes transmit chikungunya. They also transmit dengue fever, another disease caused by a virus.

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