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Chikungunya Virus Quickly Spreading In Caribbean

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The chikungunya virus, which first appeared in the Caribbean a few weeks ago is spreading rapidly from island to island as the busy winter tourism season is in full swing.

The mosquito-borne virus was first found by epidemiologists on the island of St. Martin. Scientists have since said at least 200 cases of chikungunya have been discovered. The virus is normally found in Africa and Asia and can cause a debilitating fever, rash, fatigue, and intense muscle and joint pain, but isn’t usually fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases of the disease have been found on the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, and St. Maarten. It’s also been found on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

While public health officials are trying to step up programs to eradicate mosquitoes; the officials are also asking people to avoid stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

The CDC said with 9 million U.S. citizens visiting the area each year, it’s possible that the disease will spread out further in the Caribbean and possibly to the U.S. and South American mainland.

The disease’s name, chikungunya, means “that which bends up” in the Kimako language of Mozambique. The name references the physique of a patient who is suffering through debilitating muscle spasms and cramps from the disease.

Chikungunya was first detected in 1953 in the blood of a patient in Tanzania.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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