Chikungunya Virus Spreads in Caribbean Islands
The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can spread diseases such as chikungunya fever.
Credit: Marco Uliana | Shutterstock.com

Thousands of people in the Caribbean are becoming sick with a virus called chikungunya, which causes debilitating fever and severe joint pain, according to news reports.

The chikungunya virus was once confined to Africa and Asia, but was brought into the Americas likely by an infected traveler in December. Since then, more than 51,000 suspected and nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of infection have occurred throughout theCaribbeanislands, according to The Pan American Health Organization.

Public health officials say they expect the virus reach the United States this summer given the large number of people traveling between the U.S. and the Caribbean, the Associated Press reported.

The virus is transmitted to people by mosquito bites, and can be prevented by covering the skin and using mosquito repellents. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years, according to the World Health Organization.

Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow us @LiveScience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.