Woman Loses Vision After Mosquito Bites

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | August 07, 2015 04:10pm ET

A woman who caught chikungunya fever while vacationing in the Caribbean wound up losing some of the vision in her right eye permanently, according to a new report of her case.

The findings suggest that vision problems may be an underreported effect of the mosquito-transmitted virus, which has spread in recent years from Africa and Asia to the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of the United States, the report's authors said.

"Sight-threatening visual loss can be a late complication of infection with chikungunya," said Dr. Abhijit Mohite, who treated the woman and co-authored the report of her case.

It is important that people with vision problems get treatment early, to prevent lasting vision loss, said Mohite, an ophthalmologist at the West Midlands Postgraduate Deanery and Queen's Hospital in the United Kingdom.
The woman in the case was 69, and visited the Caribbean island of Grenada in July 2014. During her stay, she was bitten by mosquitoes, and developed a flu-like illness, fever, rash and joint pain. She also developed muscle weakness in her face, and received steroids from a local doctor to treat it, according to the study.
The woman returned home to the United Kingdom that August. Although her illness appeared to go away (except for lingering joint pain and stiffness), she began having trouble seeing with her right eye.
Other doctors have noted eye problems in people infected with chikungunya, but this is the first known case of a woman in the United Kingdom developing this problem, Mohite said.

It's unknown how often chikungunya infections may lead to eye problems, experts said.
They last saw the woman in February 2015, and she was still seeing at 20/80 in her right eye, Mohite said.

A woman who didn't receive anti-inflammatory treatments soon enough lost part of her vision in her right eye after getting the chikungunya virus.