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July 12, 2014

Disease prevalent in Okla.

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

The chikungunya virus, first reported in Africa in the 1950s, was confirmed in islands in the Caribbean just last year. Since then, the Pan American Health Organization says 250,000 suspected human cases of the disease have been identified in more than 20 nations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

“It really has caught on with quite a firestorm,” Bradley said. “That’s quite an epidemic that’s occurring there.”

Chikungunya does not often cause death, but symptoms can be severe including high fever and severe pain in multiple joints.

The Heartland virus was first identified in Missouri in 2009 and the Oklahoma case was only the tenth confirmed. Other cases have occurred in Missouri and Tennessee. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, bruising easily and diarrhea.

Bradley said there are no vaccines for the Heartland virus or the other infectious diseases and no specific treatments.

“It comes down to prevention being the key,” she said. The Health Department recommends the use of insect repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors and avoiding bushy and wooded areas to avoid bites from ticks and mosquitoes.

“You want to keep the mosquitoes off of your bare skin,” Bradley said. “That’s the first line of defense.”

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