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Health officials issue alert about Chikungunya disease

A statement on behalf of the Chief Medical Officer indicated that on 6th December, 2013, the World Health Organization was notified of two laboratory confirmed cases and four probable cases of locally acquired Chikungunya disease in French Saint Martin.

As of Tuesday, 10th December an additional 20 suspected cases were reported. This is the first time that transmission of locally acquired Chikungunya is occurring in the Region of the Americas. There are no reported cases in St. Kitts and Nevis at this time.

Chikungunya is a viral disease which is transmitted to humans by the same mosquitoes that spread dengue i.e. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both of these mosquitoes are present in St. Kitts and Nevis.

 

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of high fever frequently accompanied by severe joint pains 3 – 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.   Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, back pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and rash.

 

The disease is rarely fatal. Symptoms are generally self-limiting and last for 7 – 10 days. However, the virus remains in the human system for 5-7 days and a mosquito feeding on an infected person during this period can become infected and pass on the virus when it bites another human.

Chikungunya shares some clinical signs with dengue and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.

There is no cure for the disease and treatment is directed at relieving the symptoms. Recovery from an infection will confer lifelong immunity.

Prevention efforts are the same as those for dengue.  The Ministry of Health in St. Kitts and Nevis is strongly urging members of the public to destroy mosquito breeding sites in and around households such as pots, pans, tires, coconut shells, flower vases, water storage containers that are improperly covered and any other receptacle that can hold standing water for more than several days. The heavy rainfalls that we are presently experiencing provide excellent conditions for mosquito breeding.

The Environmental Health Departments on both islands will continue to carry out mosquito reduction plans.  However, the cooperation of residents is absolutely essential for the success of prevention activities. 

There are no travel and trade restrictions in place. Travelers to St. Martin are, however, urged to take precautions such as wearing light coloured long sleeved shirts and long pants, staying indoors during dusk and dawn if possible and applying topical mosquito repellent containing DEET, IR3535 or icaridin at all times. Mosquito nets may also be used to offer additional protection.


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