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Chikungunya is on the move

The virus has found a new hemisphere and might get a new latitude

By
3:49pm, June 2, 2015
Map of chikungunya outbreaks and mosquito ranges

GETTING AROUND  The chikungunya virus spreads via mosquitoes in tropical regions. Now it has found a way to hijack a second mosquito, posing a threat to people in Europe, North America and China. (See below for a detailed version of the map.)

A crippling virus has slipped its bonds in Africa and Asia and is invading whole new continents faster than people can learn to pronounce its name. In one decade, chikungunya (chihk-uhn-GUHN-yuh) fever has gone from an obscure tropical ailment to an international threat, causing more than 3 million infections worldwide. The virus has established itself in Latin America and may now have the wherewithal to inflict its particular brand of misery in cooler climates.

Chikungunya rarely kills its victims, but it can bring a world of hurt. It comes on like the flu — fever, chills, headache, aching joints — and typically lingers for a week. Many patients later develop severe joint pain that can recur for months or years. In the Makonde language of East Africa, where the virus was first identified in 1952, chikungunya means “to walk bent over” or “to become contorted,” a reference to the stooped posture of many sufferers.

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