As the world focuses on the next big fear operation with Ebola, another disease going by the name of chikungunya is growing as a serious threat in the U.S.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. Like Ebola, it is an RNA virus which can have high mutation rates compared to DNA viruses.
It is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, and causing fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common. Interestingly, dengue leads back to CIA & army experiments and the WHO has stated that some 2.5 billion people, two fifths of the world’s population, are now at risk from dengue.
Senior American journalist William Blum has reported: “In 1956 and 1958, declassified documents have revealed that the US army loosed swarms of specially bred mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida to see whether disease carrying insects could be weapons in a biological war. The mosquitoes bred for the tests were of Aedes Aegypti type, the precise carrier of dengue fever as well as other diseases. In 1967, it was reported by Science magazine that at the US Government Centre in Fort Detrick, Maryland, dengue fever was amongst those diseases that are at least the object of considerable research and that appear to be among those regarded as potential biological warfare agents.”
A 1978 Pentagon publication, entitled Biological Warfare: Secret Testing & Volunteers, reveals that the Army’s Chemical Corps and Special Operations and Projects Divisions at Fort Detrick conducted “tests” similar to the Avon Park experiments in Key West, but the bulk of the documentation concerning this highly classified and covert work is still held by the Pentagon as “secret.” One former Fort Detrick researcher says that the army “performed a number of experiments in the area of the Keys” but that “not all concerned dengue virus.”
In the spring and summer of 1981, Cuba experienced a severe hemorrhagic dengue fever epidemic. Between May and October 1981, the island nation had 158 dengue-related deaths with about 75,000 reported infection cases. Prior to this outbreak, Cuba had reported only a very small number of cases in 1944 and 1977. At the same time as the 1981 outbreak, covert biological warfare attacks on Cuba’s residents and crops were believed to have been conducted against the island by CIA contractors and military airplane flyovers. Particularly harmful to the nation was a severe outbreak of swine flu that Fidel Castro attributed to the CIA.
In 1985 and 1986, authorities in Nicaragua accused the CIA of creating a massive outbreak of dengue fever that infected thousands in that country. CIA officials denied any involvement, but army researchers admitted that intensive work with arthropod vectors for offensive biowarfare objectives had been conducted at Fort Detrick in the early 1980s, having first started in the early 1950s. Fort Detrick researchers reported that huge colonies of mosquitoes infected with not only dengue virus but also yellow fever were maintained at the Frederick, Maryland installation, as well as hordes of flies carrying cholera and anthrax, and thousands of ticks filled with Colorado fever and relapsing fever.
A review of declassified Army Chemical Corps documents reveal that the army may have also been engaged in dengue fever research as early as the late 1940s. Several redacted Camp Detrick and Edgewood Arsenal reports indicate that experiments were conducted on state and federal prisoners who were unwittingly exposed to dengue fever, as well as other viruses, some possibly lethal. Freedom of Information requests filed months ago for details on these early experiments remain unanswered.
Arrival of Chikungunya
Chikungunya originates from Latin America, and has the potential to affect many Americans in the coming months and even years. Like dengue, the viral disease is transmitted not by humans, but by mosquitoes.
Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions, with considerable morbidity and suffering. The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas.
Starting in February 2005, a major outbreak of chikungunya occurred in islands of the Indian Ocean. A large number of imported cases in Europe were associated with this outbreak, mostly in 2006 when the Indian Ocean epidemic was at its peak. A large outbreak of chikungunya in India occurred in 2006 and 2007. Several other countries in South-East Asia were also affected. Since 2005, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives and Myanmar have reported over 1.9 million cases. In 2007 transmission was reported for the first time in Europe when it was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.
In December 2013, France reported 2 laboratory-confirmed autochthonous (native) cases of chikungunya in the French part of the Caribbean island of St Martin. Since then, local transmission has been confirmed in the Dutch part of Saint Martin [St Maarten], Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Barthelemy. Aruba only reported imported cases.
“The arrival of chikungunya virus, first in the tropical Americas and now in the United States, underscores the risks posed by this and other exotic pathogens,” said Roger Nasci, Ph.D., chief of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Arboviral Diseases Branch. “It is not known what course chikungunya will take now in the United States.”
While symptoms often fade away within a week, some patients still experience joint pain for months and years. There is only a small chance of death with this disease, but a chance nonetheless.
The CDC lists a total of 1,052 confirmed cases within the United States this year. Two hundred and fifty two travel-related cases have been reported in New York alone, and an additional 195 in Florida.
But not everyone was infected overseas. In Florida, there have been 11 locally contracted cases since July, making it the first state that has become a host of infected mosquitoes, according to the CDC. Two of the cases were detected last week.
Could Chikungunya Spread Beyond Florida?
Despite the change in coming seasons, experts are still concerned about the disease mutating and being carried by other species.
Chikungunya is having a major effect on Latin America and the Caribbean as well, with the Dominican Republic suspecting that over 400,000 people have the disease and one death resulting from the disease in Colombia this week. Venezuela also saw 13 deaths caused by the disease on Thursday, and Peru declared a health emergency on the same day that will last for 90 days.
The CDC said the best ways to avoid getting the virus are to “avoid mosquito bites, use air conditioning or screens when indoors, use insect repellents, and wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors.”
Mosquitoes Kill More People Than All Other Animals Combined
The humble mosquito tops a list of killer beasts — and is apparently responsible for the deaths of a whopping 725,000 humans every year.
Malaria alone kills more than 600,000 people every year and hundreds of millions are incapacited by the disease.
Scientists are well aware of the problem and many have claimed that experimentation, genetic modification and specific breeding has made the problem worse.
Oxitec and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit of Grand Cayman (MRCU) announced in 2010 that genetically altered mosquitoes were set loose in the wild, after years of laboratory experiments and hypothetical calculations. While some scientists believed the trial could lead to a breakthrough in stopping RNA viruses, critics argued the mutant mosquitoes might wreak havoc on the environment.
“This is playing with fire as there have been no controlled long-term studies which demonstrate the safety of interfering with mating practices of mosquitoes,” said Professor and entomologist Derek McAuley. “Despite any benefits relating to reduction in cases of dengue, this experiement could dramatically upset the delicate balance and ratio of mosquitoes necessary in these environments.”
Consider The Facts On Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes
1. The genetically engineered mosquitoes lifespan is considerably less when compared to natural mosquitoes.
2. Since the GM mosquitoes do not enter a reproductive cycle, when females mate with a sterile males, they will have no offspring disrupting the food chain cycle for higher level predators.
3. Releasing these mosquitoes into the environment may replace the natural mosquito population within a unspecified period of time..
4. The mosquitoes have no competitive advantage over natural mosquitoes.
5. GM mosquitoes would have to “take over” the naturally occurring, disease-spreading mosquitoes. This means giving the GM mosquitoes a competitive advantage, something that has not yet been achieved or tested.
We could be looking at a big problem in the entire continent of North America in the coming years if this virus mutates and becomes more lethal to humans.
Turmeric May Stop RNA Viruses
Curcumin, found in turmeric, stopped the potentially deadly RNA Rift Valley Fever virus from multiplying in infected cells, says Aarthi Narayanan, lead investigator on a new study and a research assistant professor in Mason’s National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases.
Ultimately, curcumin could be part of therapies that help defeat RNA viruses in the future.
This article first appeared at Prevent Disease.