An east Tennessee man may now have the first case of chikungunya in the state this year, and health officials are preparing for a possible outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus as the World Cup approaches.
Diana and Eugene Davidson are world travelers to the extreme. On their last trip, they went on a boat tour deep into the jungles of Indonesia.
"We just slept under a mosquito net," Diana Davidson said.
But a few days into the excursion, Eugene Davidson started getting sick.
"It hurt so bad that he can't move," Diana Davidson said.
The rest of the trip was spent going from hospital to hospital, and doctors in Indonesia and Malaysia said Eugene Davidson had all the symptoms of chikungunya, an illness that causes fever and excruciating joint pain.
The virus is common in southeast Asia but new to the United States. So far, only a few cases have been reported in Florida and Arkansas.
When the Davidsons finally returned home, doctors in Knoxville had never heard of chikungunya.
"They were coming and asking me, 'How do you spell this?'" Diana Davidson said.
Her husband was tested for dozens of illnesses, including malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya, and every test came back negative.
But because chikungunya often can't be detected if the patient isn't tested within the first two weeks, doctors are re-testing him.
"It can be hard to diagnose sometimes," said Dr. James Crowe, director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center vaccine center.
Crowe is a member of the new Global Virus Network chikungunya task force created to research the virus in case of a possible chikungunya outbreak in Tennessee.
"The danger with chikungunya is it can go on for months or years," Crowe said.
It's believed the virus will spread rapidly when Americans travel to Brazil for the World Cup, which begins June 12.
Tennessee has the type of mosquitoes capable of carrying the virus.
"There's no treatment or vaccine that's licensed. So the only way to protect yourself is to protect yourself from a mosquito bite," Crowe said.
For now, Eugene Davidson is being treated for chikungunya while he waits for the new test results.
Diana Davidson, who is a nurse in Knoxville, contacted Channel 4 News about her husband's case after seeing an earlier story we did on the virus.
She said there needs to be more awareness for the virus.
Vanderbilt researchers on the chikungunya task force are now looking into Eugene Davidson's case.
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