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Mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya fever has reached Long Island

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LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) -- The same insect that brought us the West Nile Virus is infecting people with a relatively new and painful illness.

It's called Chikungunya fever, and it's carried by recent travelers to the Caribbean where the virus is spreading at an alarming rate.

The mosquito-borne infection has surfaced in states across the country, including New York, which according to Senator Chuck Schumer's office, has 30 confirmed cases.  Three patients in the past six weeks were treated by Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious diseases specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island.

"We have confirmed one case from the CDC.  The other cases are presumed, but not yet proven because testing isn’t back yet,” said Dr. Hirschwerk, who noted the unrelated patients all traveled to the Caribbean.

Senator Schumer is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an immediate health alert for medical professionals in New York and around the country.

“Chikungunya has now officially reached Long Island, and the feds must act before this debilitating virus spreads further and takes hold in New York.  There are a number of ways Chik-V can be treated and contained, and it is critical that the CDC issue a health alert so that doctors can be on the look-out for this virus, better identify and treat symptoms and prevent its spread,” said Schumer in a statement.

Symptoms include fever, rashes, and painful joints.

There are no vaccines and the virus is not considered deadly.

Schumer also called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to declare a “public emergency” in the Caribbean and other countries, so that the United States can put in place specific protocols and resources at its borders and elsewhere to prevent the spread of the virus in the U.S..

“The greater concern is West Nile Virus because that really is in our area, and this is picked up and carried by mosquitoes,” said Dr. Hirschwerk.