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Doctors Want North Texans To Know Dangers Of Chikungunya

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A health alert has been issued in North Texas, as Tarrant County diagnoses its first case of Chikungunya fever.

According to the health department, a Mansfield resident brought the virus back, after a visit to the Caribbean. Now, health workers want people who might be traveling there to know the dangers of bringing the virus back to North Texas.

Mansfield homeowners told CBS 11 News that they were shocked and concerned to hear that such a debilitating disease had struck so close to home. Now more residents are keeping the bug spray closer than ever.

After years of warnings about the West Nile Virus, health officials say the new mosquito borne threat is making its way to the area.

Mansfield mother Lisa Day said, "We spend a lot of time outside because of sports, and if it that's something we need to be concerned about… I will definitely try to protect my kids from that."

Chikunguya fever is characterized by severe joint pain, sudden onset of high fever, headache, muscle ache and rash. The condition has no cure and there is no vaccine to prevent it.

Doctor Anita Kurian, the associate director of Tarrant County Public Health, said, "The mosquitoes get infected when they bite an infected person during the infectious period – [during the] first week of the illness."

According to Tarrant County health officials, the Mansfield resident was infectious during the last week of June or early July. They do not believe that the virus has spread because there have been no more human cases in the area. Still, they are encouraging North Texans to take precautions.

Kurian said, "Unlike the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus infections, these mosquitoes [Aedes mosquitoes] are active and can bite during the day."

Health officials are reminding North Texans to get in the habit of wearing insect repellant at all times.

Mansfield mom Linda McCall isn't happy about the situation. "I just can't believe we've come to that… having to put all of these chemicals on our kids. But what can you do? You can't keep them in a bubble."

Doctors are asking those in the medical community to be sure and ask patients who may have traveled to the Caribbean or South America about symptoms and whether they believe they've been exposed.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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