Texas Children's Hospital testing children for chikungunya

Hospital tests hundreds of children who come through facility

HOUSTON – Christine Long loves to play with her dog Heidi in her backyard and entertain friends and family around her pool, but her last get-together was just miserable.

"We were out here maybe 30 minutes and we were covered in mosquitoes," said Long. "It was just terrible."

She wasn't just concerned about the itchy bites but also about West Nile and chikungunya.

"Chikungunya is a virus that's spread by mosquitoes," said Dr. Kristy Murray, of Texas Children's Hospital.

This bugger likes the daytime and hanging around backyards and homes.

"They will bite a person who has the disease, become infected and then go on to bite another person and give the disease onto that person," Murray said.

Just months ago, no one had heard of the term chikungunya, but experts said Texas has the right climate for an outbreak if the right steps aren't taken. That's why Murray and her team at Texas Children's Hospital are actually testing for it.

"As far as I'm aware, this is actually the only study in the United States that's taking a very active approach at looking for chikungunya," said Murray.

They've tested hundreds of children who come through their hospital, especially kids with a fever.

"I think, really, for us to identify this virus is going to be the best approach. To be out there really actively looking for any cases that occur," said Murray.

So far there are no positive test results, but Murray said it won't be a shock if a child does eventually test positive.

"We have the exact mosquitoes that carry the disease, those mosquitoes are incredibly active in the Houston area," said Murray. "We're densely populated, so diseases like this, the mosquitoes that spread them, it's very easy to get transmission occurring within a neighborhood."

To keep families safe from chikungunya, more people are calling pest control companies to spray their homes. After her pool party, Long did the same.

"My automatic response to the situation was to call them and to get them out here to take care of the mosquitoes," said Long.

"Terminix came out with an all-natural bait for mosquitoes with natural ingredients of garlic and citrus," said Jason Simonton, with Terminix.

"We don't have a problem anymore," Long said.

Murray said your family needs to wear a repellent with DEET and re-apply it during the day.

"If we do start to see transmission here in Houston, the best way to prevent infection is to stay indoors in air conditioning and prevent mosquito bites altogether," said Murray.