Smart Woman: Chikungunya Vaccine

By Brittany Pelletz |

Published 08/15 2014 06:42PM

Updated 10/16 2014 08:57PM

Federal health officials have been keeping a close eye on the mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya (chih-kihn-GUHN'-yuh)  as more cases are reported nationwide. Now a new vaccine is in development to prevent the illness.

An experimental vaccine to prevent the mosquito spread virus Chikungunya is showing promise. 

"We have tested it to see if it's safe and apparently it is and to see if it induces the kind of immune response that you would predict would be protective and that is good," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases injected 25 volunteers with the vaccine and found antibodies developed, and lasted, in participants for at least 11 months after their last shot.  That’s encouraging health officials who are concerned about the spread of the virus.

Nearly 600 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in the US so far this year. While the virus is not usually deadly, many people get sick.

Symptoms include fever and joint pain as well as muscle aches, headaches, joint swelling and rash. 

Dr. Fauci added, "even when the acute disease is over, some percentage of people about 20% will go and have persistent joint symptoms for anywhere for months to sometimes up to a year."

While most U.S. cases have occurred in travelers returning from the Caribbean, four people got the virus in Florida. Dr. Fauci says the next step is to test the vaccine in a much larger group. 

If successful, it would likely be available to people who live near outbreaks or those who frequently travel to those places. 

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