No new cases of chickungunya virus in St. Lucie County

Local scientists working on vaccines

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - St. Lucie County health officials had good news to report on Tuesday.  They just got back the results from their door to door blood sampling survey earlier this month.

"We did not find any other indication of exposure to chikungunya or dengue fever, said St. Lucie County Health Officer Larry Lee.

The county took those measures after a Fort Pierce woman contracted chikungunya locally.

Right now, chick-v has no known cures or specific treatments.

Over at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute in Port St. Lucie, local scientists are making great strides to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

Dr. Ted Ross watched chikungunya sweep through the Caribbean last year.

"It was pretty obvious that we were going to have it here in Florida," said Dr. Ross.

In the lab it's a two-pronged approach, not only providing therapies to provide immediate relief, but also immuno-therapies, or vaccines, to last a lifetime.

 VGTI just applied for a patent for one doctor's work with certain anti-viral compounds that promoted immunity in mice.

"It's more acute to deal with the infection. You give this compound and it will basically blunt the ability for the virus to grow," said Dr. Ross.

But will ailments like chikungunya be growing problems?

"The question is how long it will stay whether it becomes endemic, that means it stays here all the time.  Or whether it will show up sporadically during our rainy seasons," said Dr. Ross.

While vaccines can take years, scientists and health officials say right now remember to use common sense by clearing away all standing water and using insect repellent.

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