RIDGELAND - The state health department on July 11 confirmed two new cases of the chikungunya virus in Mississippi residents.

The cases occurred in residents who recently returned from the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a release from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) said.

The chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) virus is traditionally found in Africa and Asia, but is infecting more and more people throughout the Caribbean and folks who travel there.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.
Death from the virus is rare, but symptoms include fever, muscle and joint pain, swelling of the joints and a rash. These effects can be devastating to anyone with a compromised immune system, officials said.

"Chikungunya virus is spread from person to person through the bite of the Aedes mosquito," MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. "It's very important for travelers to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations to be especially careful and take proper precautions to protect themselves."

Individuals who think they might be infected with chikungunya should see their healthcare provider immediately, and stay indoors for at least 10 days to avoid mosquito bites, as native-to-Mississippi mosquitoes could easily spread the virus to others in the Magnolia State.

Mississippians are also being cautioned to take several preventative measures to prevent contracting chikunguna and other mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile Disease:
- Use recommended mosquito repellent that contains DEET while outdoors. If using sunscreen, apply sunscreen, then repellent.

- Remove all sources of standing water around your home and yard to prevent breeding.

- Wear loose, light-colored, long clothing to cover arms and legs when outdoors, and do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing.

On July 1, the CDC has issued a Level-1 alert for travel in Carribean, suggesting Americans practice usual precautions.