TRAVERSE CITY — Local public health officials and physicians are on the lookout for a new mosquito-borne virus in patients who’ve returned from trips to the Caribbean.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a health alert about Chikungunya Virus to help public health officials and clinicians recognize, manage and report Chikungunya infections in patients.

The virus’ symptoms inlcude fever, joint and muscle pain, headache and a rash. Chikungunya is spread through mosquito bites, and there is no vaccine or medicine to prevent or treat the illness.

Twenty-eight cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far this year as of June 2, according to the CDC, but Chikungunya is not required by law to be reported to epidemiologists. All cases were in people who traveled to the Caribbean where the virus is present.

Wendy Trute, health officer with the Grand Traverse County Health Department, said she’s not aware of any cases in the area.

“Right now, we’re just trying to heighten awareness,” Trute said. “It’s a new virus that in the past wasn’t seen in the United States.”

The virus is spread by two types of mosquitoes, one that’s found in Michigan and another that is not, Trute said. Symptoms typically show up three to seven days after a patient is infected. The infection typically is mild, Trute said, but symptoms can be severe, particularly in children and seniors.

Trute said the greatest concern about Chikungunya is for people who will be traveling to the Caribbean.

“If you are going to be traveling somewhere you should take the correct precautions,” she said. “It’s always good to do research about the place you’re going to travel to before you go and to talk to your doctor to make sure they get you as protected as they can.”

The best way to prevent infection is to prevent mosquito bites. Trute said most people who will be spending the summer in Michigan should be more concerned about West Nile Virus or Lyme Disease, which are spread by mosquitoes and ticks, respectively.

“If you’re not someone who is going to be traveling to the Caribbean, you probably should be more concerned about West Nile,” she said.

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