Houston, Texas (NAPSI) - For many, the best part of warmer weather summer in particular is spending time with family and friends in the great outdoors. From barbecues to swimming to entertaining, the classic summertime activities happen outside.

Unfortunately, a new illness carried by mosquitoes is threatening to put a major damper on all the fun. Called chikungunya (chik-un-gun-ya), it is a rapidly spreading mosquito-borne disease and the first of its kind to enter the U.S. since the West Nile virus.

With 601 confirmed cases in 37 states as of July 29, the disease is steadily spreading throughout the southern and the eastern U.S. and has already infected more than 100,000 people in the West Indies. Chikungunya is also prevalent in Brazil, creating public health concerns as many return home from the World Cup.

Dr. David Sanders, associate professor of biology at Purdue University and an expert on mosquito-borne diseases, states, “Aedes mosquitoes are potential carriers of viruses such as yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. Humans who already have the chikungunya virus infect the mosquitoes that bite them and the mosquitoes in turn spread the disease when they bite others.”

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of chikungunya, which include fever, headache, rashes, vomiting, exhaustion and muscle or joint pain, which can last up to several weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

There Is No Vaccine

Because there is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya, questions are emerging about what families and individuals can do to guard against potential infection. Aedes mosquito populations typically spend their whole lives traveling no farther than the length of a few football fields, so our own backyards are the first line of defense when it comes to prevention.

Dr. Sanders explains the best way to avoid mosquito bites is to use multiple types of mosquito abatement tactics such as:

• Eliminating standing water in places like birdbath pools and making sure gutters are unclogged

• Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors

• Applying topical insect repellents that include DEET

• Using pesticide-free and environmentally friendly flying-insect traps, such as Dynatrap, which attract mosquitoes and eliminate them from around your home.

To learn more about how to protect your family against flying insects and mosquito-borne illnesses this summer, visit