ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — A woman lost vision in her right eye after getting bitten by mosquitoes.
A new study finds that a 69-year-old woman who visited Grenada in July 2014 contracted chikungunya fever after getting bitten by mosquitoes, LiveScience reports.
While in Grenada, the woman developed a flu-like illness, fever, rash, joint pain and muscle weakness in her face. When she returned home to the United Kingdom in August, she had trouble seeing out of her right eye.
“Her main symptom was that she felt she could not see the lower half of her vision in the right eye,” Dr. Abhiji Mohite, who treated the woman and co-author of the study, told LiveScience. “This had come about only a day before she came to see us, and about three weeks after she returned from Grenada.”
While doctors were trying to diagnose her, the woman’s vision became damaged after her right optic nerve swelled. She initially had 20/20 vision in both eyes, but within days it worsened to 20/80.
Mohite told LiveScience that a blood test showed the woman had chikungunya two days after her visit, but doctors still needed to rule out other potential causes of her vision loss. Steroids were prescribed to treat her optic nerve.
“One of the main risks of high-dose steroids is that they can exacerbate an infection, if she had another infection somewhere else in the body,” he said. “This is why we had to await all the other tests before we could start steroids, and this took six days.”
LiveScience reports that nearly half of the never cells in the woman’s right optic nerve died during those six days.
“The steroids, unfortunately, were not started soon enough in our patient,” Mohite told LiveScience.
Dr. Aileen Marty, director of the Florida International University Health Travel Medicine Program and Vaccine Clinic, said it’s unknown how often this type of virus leads to eye problems.
“It’s underreported because people don’t even do the studies to figure out if it’s chikungunya,” Marty told LiveScience. “My personal opinion is that it’s really not an uncommon event to get some level of eye involvement.”
“Sight-threatening visual loss can be a late complication of infection with chikungunya,” Mohite said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that a Florida man in July 2014 became the first person in the U.S. to get chikungunya.