ATLANTA -- The state health department is currently testing at least 12 Georgians for the chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne illness known to cause extreme joint pain and nausea.
Until recently, the virus, transmitted through mosquito bites, was mostly seen overseas, with strong numbers in the Caribbean Islands. But in recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control have reported cases in 10 US states, including 23 cases in Florida alone.
There are currently no confirmed cases in Georgia, but state health officials expect that to change at any moment.
"It's getting closer to the U.S.," said Ryan Deal, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Health. "I think it is very safe to say that we will have cases in Georgia probably very soon."
But health officials are eyeing a larger concern: that domestic mosquitoes may soon begin to carry and spread the virus stateside.
"That's a real concern to public health," Ryan Deal said. "Right now, the only way to acquire this virus, the only way we're aware anyone has ever acquired this virus, is through travel to a foreign nation."
"The idea that a mosquito could become affected in the United States is, for all intents and purposes, a game-changer," he added.
Health officials advise anyone who recently traveled overseas to visit a doctor immediately upon experience symptoms, including rash, nausea, muscle ache and, most notably, severe joint pain.
The CDC has additional informationabout the virus, along with a full list of symptoms.
The GA Department of Public Health reminds everyone to protect themselves against mosquito bites by using repellent and covering arms and legs with proper clothing. Also remember to remove standing water and stay inside around dusk and dawn.
The department has provided a guide to choosing the correct repellent.