Fifteen countries confirm chikungunya disease

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Fifteen countries have confirmed the presence of chikungunya disease and these include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, St Barthelemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and St Maarten. More recently Suriname has said that it has confirmed 17 cases of the virus on the South American continent, neighbor to Guyana.

Late last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the first local transmission of chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere identified in French Saint Martin.

“So far there have been no suspected cases in the Cayman Islands, should there be any we have arrangements with the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad (CARPHA) for Laboratory testing,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar.
“There are no borders for communicable diseases. The easy access and frequency of air travel to endemic areas put persons at risk for the chikungunya virus. If someone is bitten by an infected mosquito in countries where chikungunya exists, the infection can be acquired. It is therefore paramount that the public protect themselves from mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents, wearing long sleeve clothing and pants tucked into socks during travels, as chikungunya is a mosquito borne disease,” he added.

According to CARPHA, by mid-June 2014, the Agency had confirmed a total of 165,800 suspected cases and 4,805 laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases, reported from these areas. According to CARPHA, more than 95% of these cases have been reported from five jurisdictions: Dominican Republic (77,320 cases), Martinique (35,000), Guadeloupe (35,000) Haiti (11,802), and St Martin (3,380).
The chikungunya virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that also transmits dengue and the disease is quite painful first presenting with a sudden high fever and joint pain within three days and the painful joint pain may last as many as two years after the virus is gone. CARPHA has also indicated that in rare cases, problems of eye, neurological and heart complications have also been reported.

While serious complications are not common the elderly and babies are considered very vulnerable.

Visitors or returning residents from the endemic countries, with fever and severe joint pains, should consult a physician and advice of travel history to enable them to assess and test for chikungunya. Cases have also been reported in Florida and Michigan.

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