WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami/AP) — The next time you're going to be outside, whether it's here or while on a trip, here's another good reason to make sure you apply bug spray.
State officials say the number of Florida travelers who contracted the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus since the beginning of the year has risen to 81.
Florida's Department of Health says 15 new cases of the virus were reported in the week ending July 12th. Five of the cases were in Broward, one in Miami-Dade, three in Palm Beach, four in Polk and one each in Alachua and Okaloosa counties.
Officials say all the patients documented in Florida contracted the virus while traveling in the Caribbean. Miami-Dade, Levy, Marion, Pasco and Volusia counties are under a mosquito-borne illness advisory.
Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It was documented in 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe before it was first confirmed in the Caribbean late last year.
Symptoms typically begin three to seven days after being bitten and include fever and severe joint pain, often in the hands and feet. There is no vaccine, but it rarely kills those infected.
People infected with chikungunya are urged to avoid mosquito bites to prevent transmitting the virus.
Broward biologist Evaristo Miqueli is analyzing batches of dead mosquitoes gathered from around the county.
He's checking to see if any could be the type that carry dangerous viruses.
He is also warning residents to take precaution and get rid of standing water in containers around the house and turn over lawn furniture after rainstorms.
"Once the water sits and it gets nutrients, that's ideal for the mosquitoes to hatch," said Miqueli. "They only fly a little ways. They are not strong flyers. They are dark black with white markings."
Experts said it's only a matter of time before someone develops Chikungunya in South Florida which is why they are alerting the public to let them know it exists.
There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent the virus but it rarely kills those infected.
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