A new deadly disease carried by the Asian tiger mosquito has entered the U.S and is now making Americans gravely ill with Chikungunya fever. The ease at which it’s contracted, via a mosquito bite, along with the growing number of cases in cities such as New York and Chicago, has the Center for Disease Control on alert.
The illnesses namesake “chikungunya” is a Swahili word that means “walking bent over,” referring to the fact that those who contract the disease often have trouble walking due to headaches, rashes, fevers and, most of all, paralyzing joint pain.
Cases in the U.S began to present late last year. The first locally-acquired case popped up in the Caribbean in December 2013, where previously the disease was concentrated in Africa and Asia. According to the CDC, there is no cure for the disease, and thousands have contracted the disease, a few resulting in death.
The CDC has already reported 129 cases of the disease in the US so far this year. Though outside of Puerto Rico, all of those cases were contracted abroad and then brought into the country. However, Asian tiger mosquitoes are continually spreading and growing in number. Ultimately, cases of the chikungunya fever will as well.
“Pieces are falling into place for a historic epidemic on U.S. shores,” a trio of Yale University professors wrote in a recent CNN column.
Asian tiger mosquitoes are opportunistic; they breed nearly anywhere. Unlike most other mosquitoes, they bite all day long. Nor do they mind having their blood meal interrupted by an attempted swatting. They just fly off to other victims and increase the odds of spreading disease.
Texas experienced an outbreak of Asian tiger mosquitos in the mid-1980′s, which spread northward through New York City to the insect’s ecological limit where temperatures on average were 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. New York health officials are monitoring Asian tiger mosquitoes in 61 locations across the city’s five boroughs. Now the mosquito has become abundant in the Washington, D.C. area.
The seemingly devious and intelligent insect has adapted their behavior to be able to ignore the onset of fall, postpone hibernation, and extend its egg-laying season. With the extended breeding time, there will be a rapid growth in the number of Asian tiger mosquitoes crossing the shores into America, bringing with them the worst diseases they can carry.