Chikungunya makes first appearance in the Caribbean, St. Martins confirms two cases
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that as of November 2013, geographic range of chikungunya virus is been seen in 49 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia.
However, for what appears to be the first time, the mosquito borne viral disease has been confirmed in the Western Hemisphere, the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean to be specific.
According to a report in The Daily Herald, two cases of Chikungunya have been confirmed in St. Martin following testing at the specialist laboratory in Marseille that returned positive results to Agence Régional de Santé (ARS) on December 5.
The two confirmed cases originated in French Quarter. In addition, there are currently four “probable” cases and 30 “suspected” cases, 15 of which are in the Oyster Pond area, the report notes.
“Chikungunya is in the Pacific islands, in Asia, in India, but never until now in the Caribbean islands,” noted epidemiologist Marion Petit-Sinturel. “It’s the first time we have had a located transmission here in St. Martin.”
The experts at the website, ProMed Mail note:
“The occurrence of a chikungunya epidemic in the Caribbean area is of concern, but perhaps not surprising. The tropical Americas, including Caribbean Islands, harbor abundant populations of the chikungunya virus mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti.
“This virus has been introduced in various areas of the world by viremic travelers into localities where the vector is present, with initiation of ongoing transmission. It seems that it has just been a matter of time until an outbreak occurs in the Americas.”
St. Martin is already battling a dengue fever epidemic. The Daily Herald reports on the French side, since the start of the epidemic (week 2013-2 to 2013-44), there have been 3,000 suspected cases, 1,074 probable or confirmed cases, 38 hospitalized cases and one death. The predominant serotype is DENV-4.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Sheet, Chikungunya is a viral disease that is spread by 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.
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 Europe, in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.
The CDC notes there is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. People can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.
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