CI vulnerable as chikungunya spreads across region

| 23/06/2014

(CNS): With fifteen Caribbean countries now reporting cases of the mosquito borne virus chikungunya local authorities are urging locals to be vigilant as Cayman is also vulnerable to an outbreak. Since the first case was identified in Saint Martin, last year the virus appears to have taken a hold in the region. Cases have been reported in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Saint Maarten, as well as Saint Martin. Local medical personnel are now on high alert and medical services providers have been advised to look for any local cases.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said that while there have been no suspected cases in the Cayman Islands yet, should there be any arrangements are in place with the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad (CARPHA) for Laboratory testing.

“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,” Dr Kumar warned.  “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.”

As of 16 June, a total of 165,800 suspected and 4,805 laboratory-confirmed Chikungunya cases had been reported from the Caribbean. 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 Saint Martin (3,380). In December 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the first local transmission of chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere in Saint Martin.

The chikungunya virus is transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito that also transmits dengue.  Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pains. The joint pains are often very debilitating, but usually last for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks.  Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pains may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported.

Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs. The symptoms 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 pains may last for months or years.  Severe cases requiring hospitalization are rare.

There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it.
Measures for controlling the spread of chikungunya are the same of those applied for the control of dengue as both diseases are transmitted by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Until a new vaccine is developed, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.

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. 

A travel health clinic is held on Thursdays in the Public Health Department at the Health Services Authority’s George Town Hospital.

Osbourne Bodden, the health minister urged Cayman residents to be aware of the virus, and to get proper “Residents with travel plans can get advice on what diseases are present in their country of destination, and what vaccines or precautions are needed,” he said.

For further information call 244-2648.

Key Facts:
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
There is no cure for the disease.
Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.
The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.
Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions globally, with considerable morbidity and suffering.
The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas.
In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Of the 36 currently reported species of mosquitos found in the Cayman Islands, and among the  many airborne nuisances, there are only two vector mosquitos for the variety of dangerous Tropical Fevers including Yellow Fever, various strains of Dengue, and Chikungunya:  the Aedes Albopictus "Asian Tiger Mosquito" and Aedes Aegypti.  The later being the more common vector insect for Cayman residents.

    Both are difficult to control or eliminate since they are not the architypical "swampland mosquito", rather, have adapted to breed in a highly domesticated setting near or even inside human dwellings, and are thus not reliant upon seasonal rain cycles.  Eggs laid in previous seasons can lay dormant and viable for well over a year.  Because they are adapted to feed almost exclusively on human blood, they can spread disease proficiently if a mosquito-transmittable disease is locally present.   

    To reduce this pest, residents should visit the MRCU website and learn how to check their own property, both inside and out for containers and flood basins, emptying any standing water, or anything that might become flooded and trigger a new pest breeding cycle.  Best advice is to learn about this mosquito and invite the MRCU to your home or yard if you think you might have a bigger problem. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love the photo…is it Mac's new Public Relations campaign leader???

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mosquito spraying is needed in parts of Cayman Brac.  Mosquitoes are getting bad in the neighborhoods east of the hospital in Cayman Brac.  Called Mosquito Control this morning but no one answered the phone.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why don't the Government get rid of all the duty subsidies in the Brac and use the revenue to spray some more?  Or are you just wanting GC to pay even more for you lot?

  4. Anonymous says:

    it would be helpful if they could spray more. The mosquitoes at the moment are an absolute nightmare

    • Anonymous says:

      It is hard to get them all, so hard in fact that total elimination is not the goal.  If it were not for the substantial control efforts of Cayman's MRCU, our country would rebound back to 1950's populations where livestock actually asphyxiated from ingesting swirling black clouds of mosquitoes.  As bad as it may seem at times, it isn't as bad as it used to be!