The Iowa Department of Public Health is reporting the first confirmed case of Chikungunya  (pronounced: CHICK-en-goon-yuh) virus in Iowa. Deputy State Epidemiologist Ann Garvey says a man from central Iowa recently returned from a trip to the Caribbean and became ill with the mosquito-borne virus. “We know that the individual is recovering and was not hospitalized,” Garvey said.

The Chikungunya virus was first discovered in the 1950s in Tanzania. In recent years, the disease has spread to new parts of the world, including the Caribbean. “Imported cases” of Chikungunya have become common in the U.S. “Most of our neighboring states have already had imported cases of Chikungunya. We were one of only six states that had not yet received our first case. So, this is something we anticipated,” Garvey said.

As of last week, nearly 700 cases of Chikungunya had been reported across the U.S. and almost all occurred in people who returned from areas of the Caribbean or South America. Garvey is encouraging anyone traveling to those regions of the world to take measures to prevent mosquito bites. “These are the same measures that we take here in Iowa when we’re preventing mosquito bites for West Nile virus, (such as) wearing repellent,” Garvey said.

Another prevention measure is to remove mosquito breeding areas by emptying outdoor containers that collect water. There have been six locally transmitted cases of Chikungunya in the U.S. this year, but all of them have occurred in Florida. Iowans are currently not at risk of getting the virus, according to Garvey, unless they visit areas of the Caribbean or South America.

“The types of mosquitoes that carry this virus are not established in Iowa, so really, the risk to Iowans is when they’re traveling to these locations,” Garvey said. So far this year, seven cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Iowa. Garvey warns Iowans not to let their guard down, as September and October are the months when mosquitoes carrying West Nile are the most active in the state.

Garvey says most people become ill with Chikungunya within a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Common symptoms are fever and joint pain.

Travelers may find a map of where Chikungunya transmission is occurring here: