March 1, 2012, 10:53 a.m.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Tuesday "unveiled new guidelines to help countries throughout the Americas detect and prevent transmission of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus -- a disease which has already infected more than two million people around the world," the U.N. News Centre reports. "The guidelines' authors, PAHO adviser on viral diseases Otavio Oliva and PAHO adviser on dengue Jose Luis San Martin, warned that the fact that people in the Americas have not been exposed to chikungunya virus, placed the region at particular risk for the introduction and spread of the virus," the news service adds (2/28).
"While the virus has not spread locally in the Western Hemisphere, experts say there is a clear risk of its introduction into local mosquito populations ... if mosquito populations in the United States or elsewhere in the Americas became infected with the virus and began spreading it to people in that area," a PAHO press release states, noting, "Hundreds of people who have traveled from the Americas to Asia and Africa in the past five years have become infected with the chikungunya virus" (2/28). Symptoms of chikungunya -- fever, nausea and severe pain, mainly in the joints -- can persist for months, according to the WHO, Pravada.Ru notes (2/28).