Chikungunya spreading to other countries in the Caribbean

Chikungunya was first detected in the Americas last December in Saint Martin.
By Alex Cukan  |  May 2, 2014 at 3:46 PM
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ATLANTA, May 2 (UPI) -- Chikungunya, an illness caused by a virus spread via mosquito bites -- first detected in the Americas last December -- is spreading to other Caribbean countries.

Chikungunya is an illness that causes fever and joint pain. Other symptoms might include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya, therefore residents and travelers to infected areas can only avoid it by preventing mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats as well as using an appropriate insect repellent.

Most sickened with the disease feel better within a week, but some patients might develop longer-term joint pain. Deaths are rare, but the very young, the very old and the very sick are at increased risk of more severe illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said as of April 29 the following Caribbean countries reported cases of chikungunya: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts, Saint Martin (French), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Maarten (Dutch).

"Travelers who go to these islands in the Caribbean are at risk of getting chikungunya. In addition, travelers to Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific are also at risk, as the virus is present in many of these areas," the CDC said on its website.

"The mosquito that carries chikungunya virus can bite during the day and night, both indoors and outdoors, and often lives around buildings in urban areas."

Last December, the World Health Organization reported mosquitoes in Saint Martin were infected with chikungunya, and spreading from mosquitoes to people.

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