TRAVEL WARNING: Outbreak of CHIKUNGUNYA FEVER in LATIN AMERICA and the CARIBBEAN ~ TRAVEL WARNING: Outbreak of DENGUE FEVER in HAWAII ~ MAINE reports first ever human death due to EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS (EEE) ~ Emerging ZIKA VIRUS may cause severe birth defects.

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Western Hemisphere 11/30/15 travelpulse.com: by Donald Wood – For those traveling to Latin America or the Caribbean in the coming month, be aware of an outbreak of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus impacting an average of one million people per year. According to Maggie Fox of NBCNews.com, researchers have discovered that the Chikungunya virus can cause brain inflammation called encephalitis more often than previously reported, and while not usually fatal, it is known to cause intense headaches, joint pain, rashes and fever.

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Chikungunya arrived in the in the Western Hemisphere when it was first discovered on St. Martin island in December 2013. Since its discovery, the virus has spread as far north as Florida and throughout Central and South America. The doctor who led the study, Dr. Patrick Gérardin of Central University Hospital in Saint Pierre, Reunion Island, released a warning for travelers, saying, “Since there is no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya and no medicine to treat it, people who are traveling to these areas should be aware of this infection and take steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing repellent and long sleeves and pants if possible.” In a report from the Pan American Health Organization, over 600,000 cases of the Chikungunya virus have been diagnosed this year alone, with 76 deaths attributed to the illness. Over the last two years, more than 1.1 million cases were reported, including 194 fatalities. – For complete article see http://www.travelpulse.com/news/impacting-travel/what-travelers-should-know-about-chikungunya-virus.html

DENGUE:

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Hawaii 12/02/15 wcvb.com: by Debra Goldschmidt – Health officials in Hawaii are getting help from the CDC to control the ongoing outbreak of dengue fever on the Big Island. Dr. Lyle Petersen — director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of vector borne infectious diseases — and two colleagues traveled to Hawaii and met with state health officials Tuesday. They plan to travel to the Big Island on Wednesday. Along with their expertise, they brought tools including special mosquito traps that are easier to use and not widely available but work well with the specific type of mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. Since September there have been 117 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease, according to the state department of health. Twenty-nine of those sick are children under the age 18. The majority of the ill patients, 103, are local residents. Dengue fever is transmitted to humans when they are bit by infected mosquitoes. There are two types of mosquitoes — Aedes aegypto and Aedes albopictus — that can transmit the virus, and both types are found in Hawaii. This is the first locally transmitted outbreak of the viral illness on the Big Island and the first outbreak in the state since five people were infected on the island of Oahu in 2011. – For complete article see http://www.wcvb.com/health/cdc-joins-probe-of-hawaiian-dengue-fever-cases/36752062

EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS (EEE):

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Maine 12/02/15 fosters.com: by Ellen W. Todd – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently acknowledged the state’s first-ever human death caused by Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The Maine CDC announced in a Nov. 24 news release that an adult in York County who died Oct. 17 was confirmed to have had the mosquito-borne illness. The individual, described as a mature adult (age 65 or above), became ill with encephalitis in late September and was hospitalized in New Hampshire on Sept. 30, according to the news release. Preliminary testing by New Hampshire’s public health laboratory in early October was inconclusive, according to the Maine CDC, and the sample was sent to the federal CDC in Fort Collins, Colorado, for confirmation. Maine CDC received the positive results Nov. 19 or 20. John Martins, a spokesperson for the Maine CDC, could not say what town the individual was from or give further information due to privacy laws. Although several horses have died from EEE in Maine over the last decade, and a visitor to the state died from the illness in 2008, this is the first time a Maine resident has succumbed to the illness. – For complete article see http://www.fosters.com/article/20151202/NEWS/151209858

ZIKA ( aka ZICA) VIRUS:

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Global 12/03/15 sciencemag.org: by Gretchen Vogel – An emerging virus that is causing an unprecedented epidemic in Brazil and is quickly spreading through Latin America may be responsible for a spike in severe birth defects. The Zika virus, a little-known pathogen that until 2007 hadn’t been seen outside of Africa and Asia, spread earlier this year to South America and has infected more than 84,000 people in Brazil. Zika usually causes relatively mild symptoms, including fever and rashes. Many infected people do not get sick at all. But the Brazilian government is now warning that the virus may be responsible for a dramatic increase in cases of microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the brain fails to develop properly and the head is much smaller than normal. Children with microcephaly frequently have developmental delays, learning disabilities, impaired motor function, and seizures. The connection is not yet proven, but if Zika virus is causing birth defects, it would be a serious public health issue. Transmitted by mosquitoes, the pathogen is rapidly expanding its range. In October and November, cases were identified in Colombia, Suriname, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. There is no vaccine or treatment for the little-studied virus, and its mosquito hosts are common as far north as the southern United States. – For complete article see http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/12/fast-spreading-virus-may-cause-severe-birth-defects

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