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(The Tennessean) The National Institutes of Health is reporting progress with an experimental vaccine for chikungunya virus, a disease that is already endemic in the Caribbean islands and expected to establish a foothold in the United States.

Two locally acquired infections were detected in Florida in mid-July, the NIH said in a press release about the experimental vaccine. Tennesseans also have been sickened by the virus, but they had visited Caribbean nations.

The experimental vaccine elicited neutralizing antibodies in all 25 volunteers who participated in a trial conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"The two species of mosquito that spread chikungunya virus are found in parts of the continental United States so it may be just a matter of time before this illness gains a foothold here," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Therefore, it is prudent to begin addressing this emerging public health threat with the development of vaccines, such as this one, which was designed and tested by scientists from the NIAID Vaccine Research Center."

The virus was first identified in Africa in the 1950s. Outbreaks also occurred in India and Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s, but it did not appear in the Western Hemisphere until late 2013.

Symptoms of the disease include severe joint pain accompanied by headache and fever.

Reach Tom Wilemon at 615-726-5961 and on Twitter @TomWilemon.

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