How the Boothbay Region Health Center got the CDC's attention

"We're really impressed that a small rural Health Center diagnosed the first case of Chikungunya this year," said an email from the Center for Disease Control.
Posted:  Monday, July 23, 2018 - 3:30pm

Chikungunya (pronounced chickengunya) is a rare tropical disease. There were 114 cases in 2017 reported in the U.S. (most were in Florida and Texas). Our diagnosis in March was the first one in the U.S. in 2018. It started when a very sick young woman walked into our Health Center. During the intake process, Health Coordinator, Miri Lyons, who had recently attended a training on insect vector-borne illness that focused on tick and mosquito transmitted diseases, noted that the patient's symptoms sounded familiar. She asked the patient whether she had been working outdoors or taking walks in the woods in the last couple of weeks. The patient answered: “No, I was on vacation in Mexico two weeks ago.” Intrigued, Miri asked, where in Mexico? Was it a fancy tourist area, or a rural, less-developed area? When told that the patient had been visiting Mayan ruins in Tulum (which is nestled in the jungle on the Yucatan peninsula), she asked about any insect bites. Yes, the patient admitted, she had gotten quite a few bites — maybe from mosquitoes.

Miri passed this information on to nurse practitioner Brett Auclaire, who spent over an hour examining and interviewing the patient. Suspecting a tropical, insect-borne disease, Brett consulted with Becky Traquair, another nurse practitioner about what kinds of blood tests might be most useful. The symptoms were both flu-like and similar to the rapid onset of rheumatoid arthritis. "We should test for both," Becky advised. They decided to consult with an infectious disease specialist and called that department at Maine Medical. After explaining where the patient had been and what her symptoms were, the specialist recommended some specific blood tests. These were done, and sent off to the lab for analysis.

Within six days, both the patient and the Health Center received a notification from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that this patient had contracted a rare mosquito-borne disease, known as Chikungunya.

Her reaction? “I was so relieved to know what it was and what to do about it. You can't imagine how scary it is to feel terrible and not know what's going on. I'm so grateful to the Boothbay Health Center team for taking the time (over two hours) to delve into my symptoms, do the research, and do the right tests the first time around."

Not everyone who walks into our Health Center has a rare tropical disease, but this level of care is the norm. Our team prides itself in getting to the bottom of whatever is ailing you, no matter how long it takes.