Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, is already in the Caribbean and threatens Floridians

Have a persistent headache accompanied by nausea, a fever, severe joint pain and a rash?
 
The symptoms suggest a variety of illnesses, but it could be the chikungunya virus.
 
The mosquito-borne virus originated in Asia, made its way to the Caribbean and could already be in the Tampa Bay area.
 
"Tourists or travelers from where chikungunya was an epidemic traveled and then a mosquito that was on that island bit that individual," explained Dr. Robert Novak, professor of global health at USF.
 
The rapidly spreading virus is already suspected of infecting 35,000 people worldwide and is associated with at least six deaths.
 
Caribbean health experts report they  can’t stop the virus and are warning tourists as travel season approaches.
 
Novak explained the threat against Floridians is twofold.  First, we have cruise ships that leave the Port of Tampa and head to the Caribbean.  He said that could easily lead to cases here.
 
In addition, the two types of mosquitos that have the ability to carry the virus, Aedes albopictus and Adeas aegypti, are common throughout Florida.
 
Novak researches both types in his lab and has colonies he oversees.
 
He advises residents to look out for what he calls "wigglers" that can be seen in standing water. Wigglers are mosquitoes that are in their larvae stage and resemble tiny worms that squirm.
 
If you notice the larvae in kiddie pools, near potted plants or in any standing water, you are advised to dump that water immediately.
 
Should you decide not to dump it, Novak offers a simple warning of what's next.
 
"Within 24 hours, this will become a flying mosquito," he said.
 
All those grownup mosquitoes need to do is bite someone who is infected with the virus.
 
Chikungunya can only be detected through a blood test.
 
"Muscular pains, headaches behind the eyes, severe headaches behind the eyes," Novak said of some symptoms.
 
The virus is not deadly, but the symptoms can linger for years.
 
According to Novak, people's reaction to the virus can range from severe to asymptomatic, making it very tricky to diagnose.
 
The two types of mosquitoes capable of carrying the virus are domestic and could be around your house.
 
"This is a Hilton hotel for Adeas aegypti and Aedes albopictus," Novak said of the Bay area.
 
He suggests removing any water from kiddie pools, tins, cans or any container that will hold water from outside.
 
He added that if you have water pans under flowers, you need to dump that water every few days.
 
Bug repellant will also provide some relief.
 
"Mosquitoes are very astute. They will find a place on your body where the bug spray isn't there," he said.
 
Health experts say all they can do is warn the public and try to reduce the population of mosquitoes in general.
 
Novak said if you have a vacant lot or garbage strewn in your area, he advises calling mosquito control and having the problem taken care of immediately.
 
Officials with both Hillsborough and Hernando County Health Departments say they have no confirmed cases of the virus.
 
ABC Action News did not immediately hear back from health departments in several other counties.
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