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Health & Science

Chikungunya Crops Up in Harris County Man Back from Caribbean

The first reported case of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, has appeared in Harris County. The patient is an elderly man who contracted the disease during a trip to the Caribbean.



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Harris County health officials say they’ve confirmed a local case in Houston. The patient had travelled abroad.

Dr. Peter Hotez is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor.

He says it might be reassuring to know the patient imported the disease and the case could be isolated.

But he says it’s only a matter of time before a local mosquito bites a traveler, and the virus gets a permanent foothold here.   

“The big question is: when does transmission of this disease start in Houston? Because we have both types of mosquitoes that can transmit the disease, we have the poverty, we have the warm climate, so we have everything. We are completely set up to start seeing transmission.”

Hotez says poverty as a risk factor surprises many people. But he says it makes sense.

“When you go areas like the Fifth Ward in Houston, where you see dilapidated housing without adequate window screens, where you see the tires along the side of the road, these are the kinds of conditions that are also favorable for transmission.” 

Hotez says county officials may want to change their mosquito spraying strategies.

And local doctors may want to consider learning more about the symptoms of chikungunya.

Those include fever, intense joint pain or a rash. 

It’s the second reported case of chikungunya in Texas. A man from north of Austin was diagnosed a few days ago, after a trip to the Caribbean.