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Virus Hits Haiti, Strikes 3 from FL

The Florida Department of Health has issued a warning regarding chikungunya fever, a viral mosquito-borne disease that has made its way to the Caribbean from Africa and Asia.

The Department has confirmed three Florida cases of Chikungunya virus (ChikV) in women who have recently traveled to the Caribbean. These include a 30-year-old in Miami-Dade, a 29-year-old from Broward, and a 44-year-old from Hillsborough County.

Symptoms of the illness usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, and can include fever, headache, muscle pain, rash, joint swelling and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. It is not usually fatal, but joint pains can linger for months.

The Health Department advises residents to drain water from any garbage cans, pool covers and other items that may have collected rain water and wear repellent.

The virus was detected in Haiti for the first time less than two weeks ago and has quickly spread throughout the Caribbean nation, a health official said Tuesday.

Some 1,529 cases of ChikV had been confirmed at mid-week, said Ronald Singer, a spokesman for Haiti's health ministry. The bulk of the cases, about 900 of them, were found in the west department, where the capital of Port-au-Prince is located. Another 300 cases were confirmed in northwestern Haiti.

Port-au-Prince has been abuzz with people complaining about a sudden and debilitating illness that's been referred to as "the fever."

The first time that local transmission of ChikV was reported in the Americas was in December on tiny St. Martin. Since then, it has spread to nearly a dozen other islands and French Guiana.

Its arrival in Haiti was expected. In neighboring Dominican Republic, authorities have confirmed at least 150 to 200 cases.

There is no vaccine for  the illness and it is spread by the pervasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever in the region.

The Chikungunya Virus (pronounced: chih-koon-Goon-yah) appeared for the first time in the Americas in December 2013 on the island of St. Martin and from there has spread quickly across the Caribbean.