Chikungunya spreads across Caribbean region

| 02/05/2014

(CNS): Following alerts last December by the local Public Health Department of an outbreak of Chikungunya in Saint Martin, the virus has now gained something of a foothold in the region. There are currently more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation, mostly in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin. Another 31,000 suspected cases of the disease, which is spread by mosquito and causes an abrupt onset of high fever and intense joint pain, have also been reported across the region of scattered islands.

The often painful illness has spread to ten other islands since the first reports in St Martin and although it is rarely fatal there is no vaccine and patients can experience joint pain for months, even years. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue fever, which is a similar but often much more serious illness.

Although Dengue is not endemic in Cayman, an outbreak last year demonstrated how easily it could happen as the Aedes aegypti is well established in urban areas of the country. The only way to stop Chikungunya or any other disease carried by the common pest is to contain the population of mosquitoes, as experts say eradicating vector-borne diseases once they become entrenched is an extremely difficult task. Dr James Hospedales, executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency, recently described the virus as the "new kid on the block".

In a recent public health warning here, Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said visitors to the Cayman Islands or returning residents from the countries now infected who have fever and severe joint pains should consult a physician and advise of their travel history to enable them to assess and test for Chikungunya, which will be carried out at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad.

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.

Meanwhile, Dr Bill Petrie, Director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, has said that the measures for controlling the spread of Chikungunya are the same of those applied for the control of dengue. “The best way to protect yourself from the disease is to avoid mosquito bites and to prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment,” he advised.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I pray that this does not find its way here and that steps are put in place to avoid this mosquito for reaching these shores.  Many years ago they use to spray the air planes before they landed is that still happening?  With all the mosquitos that we use to have I don't remember hearing of anyone having Dengue Fever here until recently say within the last 7 – 10 years.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There are wonderful essential oils that you can buy at Kirks, BodyWorks, etc that not  only  great for your skin, but also protect  you from mosquitos. Make a mix of 6 drops Peppermint, 6 drops of teatree, 9 drops of citronella in  1 TBS of any carrier (base) oil (sold as well) and carry with you everywhere and re-apply as needed.That simple  and could be a  life saver.

    Or you can make a bug spray: choose from Citronella,Clove,Lemongrass,Rosemary,TeaTree,Cedar,Catnip,Lavender,Mint  25 drops total in 16oz purified water in a large spray bottle.


  3. UHUHUH says:

    Why refer us to the Public Health Warning? it's the same story as this!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Who names these new diseases? This one sounds like an entree at a local restaurant.