St. Lucia bracing itself for possible chikungunya disease

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

The island of St. Lucia is bracing itself for a possible outbreak in chickungunya should the mosquito-borne disease spread throughout the region.

According to health authorities there, the disease has been confirmed in St. Lucia with its very first case being announced earlier last week. St. Lucia recently announced that a 63-year-old man had contracted the disease.

“There is a possibility that other persons on the island may actually have the disease,” said Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Merlene Frederick. “We know chickungunya is transmitted by mosquitoes so as long as we have an infected person and mosquitoes are around and bite them, there is a possibility of transmission,” the CMO said.
The disease usually presents with  fever and just mild joint pain which can then develop into severe joint pain, rash and other unpleasant but not fatal symptoms. The disease was first confirmed in the French island of St. Martin more recently. It had not been around since 1952 and many climatologists attribute this to climate change.

According to the CMO, the island would be stepping up its vector control campaign alongside its public awareness campaign to eliminate breeding sites.

“If we can keep the mosquito population down there’s a good chance we can have a low impact in terms of the chikungunya virus”, she said.

Do not panic

“We do not want to create any panic. It is because of our efforts with respect to strengthening the surveillance that we are now able to detect much quicker, not only chikungunya but dengue, leptospirosis and some of the other diseases that present with similar symptoms,” said Nahum Jn Baptiste, the national epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with chikungunya than with dengue. The symptoms typically appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The majority of clinical signs and symptoms last three to 10 days, but joint pain may persist longer.  Cases requiring hospitalization are rare.

The first case of the disease in the Caribbean was reported in the French island of St. Martin last year. Since then it has spread to several countries with Dominica Tuesday urging nationals to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the chikungunya disease on the island.



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