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Afro/Asiatic fever detected

Saturday, December 14 2013

TEN CASES of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus a dengue like sickness have been confirmed on the island of St Martin. It is the first time this disease, first detected in Africa and Asia, is being confirmed in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) said in a release yesterday.

The agency said on Wednesday it received notification of the ten confirmed cases of the viral infection on the French side of St Martin. No case has been reported on the Dutch side of the island. Four additional cases have been identified as probable cases and 20 other persons are suspected of having the disease, CARPHA said adding they are awaiting lab test results and it is likely the number of confirmed cases will increase.

Chikungunya, which has infected millions of people in Africa and Asia since the disease was first recorded in 1952, is carried mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rashes. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with Chikungunya than with dengue. 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 ten days, but joint pain may persist longer. Severe cases requiring hospitalisation are rare.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Chikungunya. It is noteworthy that this is the first time locally-acquired cases of Chikungunya have been detected in the Caribbean. In the Americas, imported cases had previously been reported from Brazil, Canada, French Guiana and the United States of America.

According to CARPHA, the health authorities on both sides of St Martin are cooperating closely. They have enhanced epidemiological surveillance, carried out measures to control mosquito breeding sites and are advising people on how to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, CARPHA Executive Director, Dr James Hospedales said in addition to Chikungunya, both sides of the island are experiencing a dengue epidemic.

Given that the Aedes aegypti which transmits Chikungunya is widely distributed in the Caribbean region and is also known to transmit dengue, Hospedales said the region is at risk for a spread of the virus. He explained the measures used for controlling the spread of chikungunya are the same as those applied for the control of dengue.

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