The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating three potential cases of a mosquito-borne disease named chikungunya.
The fever's name itself paints a vivid picture.
"It comes from the Makonde language in Africa meaning to bend over in pain," said Dr. Abelardo Moncayo, the state medical entomologist.
Mosquitoes transmit the disease, which Moncayo describes as extremely painful.
"We don't know what's going to happen with this virus in the United States, and because of that uncertainty, we're certainly concerned about it," Moncayo said.
The symptoms include fever, vomiting, nausea, rashes, muscle pain and above all, joint pain. Medical professionals like Moncayo said joints can ache so badly, patients may have shaking hands or difficulty walking.
Back in December, chikungunya spread to the Western Hemisphere from Africa, according to Moncayo. It infected more than 100,000 people. But he said the three potential local cases popped up in Tennessee last week.
The entomologist said the three patients share something in common: They traveled to Haiti for a mission trip, then flew back to Tennessee. The individuals returned to the eastern, middle, and western regions of the state.
It will take weeks for laboratories to process blood samples from the three patients. Meanwhile, scientists fear local mosquitoes - ones native to the Southeast - could pick up the disease, then spread it further among the human population.
"We're very concerned about people that symptoms," Moncayo said. "Because they have the virus in their blood that can infect our local mosquitoes."
That's why the doctor pushes prevention. So if you're outside at any time of day, remember to spray bug repellent. The local mosquitoes in question, the Asian Tiger Mosquitoes, bite during daylight instead of just dawn and dusk.
Other recommendations include wearing long, light and loose clothing; closing windows and doors; and eliminating standing pools of water.
Fortunately, Moncayo said the chikungunya virus results in a low mortality rate: very few people die, but the symptoms can't be treated.
If you show symptoms possibly linked to chikungunya, please contact your doctor immediately.
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