Chikungunya spreads in Caribbean

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Health officials say that cases of the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya are spreading through the Caribbean.

“The World Health Organization does not advise special screening at points of entry into the country with regards to this event. Nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions,” said Dr. Kiran Kumar, Cayman Islands medical officer of health.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 123 cases have been reported across six Caribbean islands with cases as follows: 99 confirmed cases on St. Martin/St. Maarten, with 98 cases reported on the French-controlled St. Martin and one case on the Dutch-controlled St. Maarten; 13 cases in Martinique with one tourist in French Guiana having travelled from Martinique and three cases in Guadeloupe. One case was reported in St. Martin representing a case where a tourist from Guadeloupe had travelled there. Seven cases were recorded in Saint Barthelemy.

A recent study from The French Institute for Public Health Surveillance also reveals 200 other suspected cases have been reported by local GPs and paediatricians in Saint Martin.

“Those who experience fever and severe joint pains after their return should consult a physician and advise of travel history, so that doctors can assess and test for chikungunya. Such tests will be carried out at the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Trinidad,” he said.

Physicians are warning people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Chikungunya is a viral disease carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and has similar symptoms to dengue fever, which is spread by the same type of mosquito. Symptoms of the virus include a sudden high fever, rash, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache and nausea. Other symptoms of chikungunya are joint pain and stiffness.  The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Measures for controlling the spread of chikungunya are the same for the control of dengue as both diseases are transmitted by the same breed of mosquito.

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