Mar 4, 2014 13:35 Health officials prepare for chikungunya virus Health officials prepare for chikungunya virus Photo provided by USDA-Agricultural Research Service -- Mosquitoes can transmit a variety of illnesses to people and animals, including West Nile virus, and Eastern and Western encephalitis. Advocate staff report March 04, 2014 Comments U.S. public-health officials, including those in Louisiana, are preparing for an outbreak of a debilitating mosquito-borne virus that can cause fever and intense muscle and joint pain for weeks and sometimes years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The chikungunya virus was first identified in Tanzania, Africa, in 1952. The virus had been limited to Africa but has spread to Asia and Europe in the last 10 years, according to the World Health Organization. Although the virus is rarely fatal, hundreds of thousands of people have been affected, and chikungunya is now surging through the Caribbean and could break out across large parts of North and South America. The St. Tammany Parish mosquito abatement district is among the agencies making preparations. The district has budgeted money for extra mosquito spray, airplanes and helicopters. If there is an outbreak, the district plans to use volunteers to do door-to-door searches for mosquito breeding areas. “We pretty much know how we’re going to respond,” the district’s director Chuck Palmisano told the Journal. “Eliminate the mosquito vector.” The Journal reports that officials from Florida to New Jersey are preparing for potential outbreaks.