An East Tennessee church group heading to Haiti on a mission trip is taking extra precautions as a new mosquito-borne virus sweeps through the Caribbean region.
Tennessee health officials have confirmed two cases of chikungunya in Tennessee, including one in the Knoxville area. They are investigating five other potential cases in Knox County.
Health officials stress you can't catch the flu-like virus in the U.S., though there are other mosquito-borne illnesses that can be transmitted, like West Nile Virus.
The only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites, and there is no vaccine.
A team of about eighteen people from Salem Baptist Church left Friday afternoon for a trip to Haiti.
Leaders say they're aware of the risks and they taking extra steps to stay safe.
"There's always risks of some sort and that's the one, one of the main ones for this trip. We're just taking repellent wipes and spray and I've got a net, mosquito net, to put over my bed. We're just going to do what we can. It's not severe or deadly, but we don't want it," said Youth Pastor Trey Meek.
The team will be helping in an orphanage and hosting Vacation Bible School type activities during their outreach in Haiti.
The Knox County Health Department has issued a warning to those traveling to the Caribbean, to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
How do you know if you have chikungunya?
- Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- The most common symptoms include fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
- Anyone with symptoms of chikungunya virus should seek medical care and minimize his or her exposure to mosquitoes to reduce the risk of local transmission.
- Most patients feel better within a week. In some, however, the joint pain may persist for months.
- Deaths are rare.