St. Petersburg, Florida -- Pinellas is the latest Florida county to confirm a case of a mosquito-borne illness that's affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Caribbean.

On Wednesday, The Florida Department of Health reported a patient in Pinellas County who had been diagnosed with chikungunya. The resident had traveled to the Caribbean in June.

The mosquito-borne viral infection is characterized by a high fever, severe chronic joint pain and fatigue. There have been 52 cases in Florida in 2014, including three in Hillsborough and one in Pasco. Cases have also been reported in Manatee and Polk counties.

So far, all reported cases come from patients who had recently traveled to the Caribbean; so far there have been no reports of anyone acquiring the disease within the United States.

"The name comes from Swahili, for 'walking bent over,'" says Dr. Daniela Chiriboga with the Polk County Health Department. "That gives you an idea how you feel."

People traveling to areas in the Caribbean can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. Steps would include using insect repellent and staying in places with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors.

Infants, older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are at risk for more severe forms of the disease.

The incubation period can range from one to 12 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, follow the "Drain and Cover" formula:

  • Drain standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Cover your arms and legs when outdoors and use mosquito repellent. Maintain your home to fix holes in screens where mosquitoes can enter. Cover infant cribs and carriers in mosquito netting to provide more protection for babies.

There is no vaccine or medication to prevent the disease, but it rarely kills those infected.

For more information about chikungunya, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's information page at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/.

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