WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Two people bitten by mosquitoes in Florida have acquired the chikungunya virus, health officials said Thursday, the first cases in the U.S. not contracted during Caribbean travel.
In both cases, they said, a person infected with the virus after visiting the Caribbean was then bitten again by an uninfected mosquito in Florida, which then transmitted the illness further.
Health officials urged residents to prevent mosquito bites, but said there was no cause for alarm.
"There is no broad risk to the health of the general public," said Dr. Celeste Philip, a public health official with the Department of Health.
The infected individuals were described as a 41-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County who began experiencing symptoms on June 10, and a 50-year-old man in Palm Beach County, who first noticed symptoms July 1.
Philip said both are doing well.
State epidemiologist Anna Likos said in order for the virus to be transmitted from an infected person to an uninfected mosquito, they must be bitten within the first week of illness.
Chikungunya was documented in 40 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe before it was first confirmed in the Caribbean late last year. With the latest cases, a total of 82 have now been logged in Florida.
Symptoms typically begin three to seven days after being bitten and include fever and severe joint pain, often in the hands and feet. In severe cases, symptoms can last months and even years.
There is no vaccine, but it rarely kills those infected.