Centres for Disease Control issues travel advisory on Caribbean and mosquito-borne disease

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

The French side of St. Martin (St. Maarten – Dutch) confirmed ten cases of chikingunya, a mosquito-borne disease virus that is not fatal but has symptoms akin to dengue fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, severe joint pains and other unpleasant symptoms that may last for several weeks to months.

Now the Federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued the advisory to anyone planning to travel to the Caribbean island.

Dr. Al DeMaria, an infectious disease specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in Boston told reporters there that “travellers shouldn’t be too worried about contracting the illness. Chikungunya is unlikely to have travelled to other Caribbean Islands in the current outbreak, because it’s transmitted from person to person via mosquitoes. That means an infected person likely travelled to St. Martin, was bitten by mosquitoes that became carriers, and then infected other people in the nearby vicinity”.

According to the CDC if you are traveling to St. Martin during the winter season, all travellers are now being urged to protect themselves against the disease. According to reports chikungunya—pronounced chik-un-GUHN-ya—means “that which bends up,” because patients often are crushed by the pain for the first few days or week of the illness. The disease has not been detected in the western hemisphere, though there have been reported outbreaks in Europe, Asia, Africa and Pacific Islanders.

The CDC, however, sounded this cautionary note: “Further spread on St. Martin, to other Caribbean islands, and to the surrounding mainland areas is possible in the coming months and years. The mosquitoes that spread it are also found in some areas of the United States.”

Tourists are being asked to use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants and to avoid bites. The use of air conditioning and screens on windows is also being recommended to keep mosquitos out, the CDC advised.

The CDC said that those returning from the Caribbean who experience fever and joint pains as well as other symptoms of chikungunya including headache, muscle pains, or rash should immediately see their doctor. There is no specific treatment beyond managing symptoms.

The disease is not fatal.

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