Categorized | Health, Local, News, Regional

A look at the chikungunya virus in the Caribbean (and Montserrat)

— WHAT IT IS: The name chikungunya comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania. It translates as “that which bends up,” referring to arthritis-like aches in joints that cause sufferers to contort with pain. The virus is spread by two mosquitoes, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, both of which also transmit dengue fever.

— WHAT IT DOES: Symptoms typically appear three to seven days after a mosquito bite and can include high fever, pain in the joints and back, and severe headache. Many sufferers can barely walk. It is rarely fatal, though there have been deaths among the elderly and people with other illnesses. Symptoms typically last about five days, but in some cases joint pain lasts for months or even years.

— WHAT CAN BE DONE: There is no specific treatment or vaccine. People with the virus should rest, drink large amounts of fluids and take acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. The best strategy is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito, so authorities have stepped up pesticide spraying in the region.

— WHERE IT IS FOUND: The virus has been known for decades in Africa and Asia, but the first locally transmitted case in the Western Hemisphere was documented in late 2013 in French St. Martin. There have since been more than 260,000 suspected and confirmed locally transmitted cases throughout the Caribbean and in parts of Central and South America. The Dominican Republic has reported the most with more than 135,000 cases, followed by Guadaloupe and Haiti, each with around 40,000. The number of cases in Haiti, though, is likely much higher. There have been cases of the virus being contracted by visitors to the region from many other countries, including the U.S.

— WHY IT IS SO BAD IN HAITI: Many people in Haiti live in flimsy houses and have little protection from mosquitoes. There is a lot of standing water that creates breeding sites for mosquitoes.

TMR: In Montserrat, while there are unconfirmed reports that the virus is in Montserrat, officers at the Environmental Health department have been expressing concern that they are not being facilitated to take action to protect against the possible spread of the virus in Montserrat. Their complaint, that their ‘fogging’ equipment is outdated, health hazardous to them and expensive to operate. They say that the authorities are not cooperating to have them carry out fogging operations to eliminate or contain the mosquitoes on the island. Recently the Ministry of Health announced that they are considering steps to remedy the sitution.

Meanwhile, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises travelers visiting the region to take added precautions against chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus with symptoms similar to dengue fever. Because there is no vaccine, despite promising tests, tourists should use insect repellent and cover skin when possible to avoid bites that can create illness. Chikungunya causes fever, pain, fatigue and can lead to chronic joint pain. More than 4,600 cases have been reported throughout the Caribbean since January.

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

— WHAT IT IS: The name chikungunya comes from the Makonde language of Tanzania. It translates as “that which bends up,” referring to arthritis-like aches in joints that cause sufferers to contort with pain. The virus is spread by two mosquitoes, aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, both of which also transmit dengue fever.

— WHAT IT DOES: Symptoms typically appear three to seven days after a mosquito bite and can include high fever, pain in the joints and back, and severe headache. Many sufferers can barely walk. It is rarely fatal, though there have been deaths among the elderly and people with other illnesses. Symptoms typically last about five days, but in some cases joint pain lasts for months or even years.

— WHAT CAN BE DONE: There is no specific treatment or vaccine. People with the virus should rest, drink large amounts of fluids and take acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. The best strategy is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito, so authorities have stepped up pesticide spraying in the region.

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— WHERE IT IS FOUND: The virus has been known for decades in Africa and Asia, but the first locally transmitted case in the Western Hemisphere was documented in late 2013 in French St. Martin. There have since been more than 260,000 suspected and confirmed locally transmitted cases throughout the Caribbean and in parts of Central and South America. The Dominican Republic has reported the most with more than 135,000 cases, followed by Guadaloupe and Haiti, each with around 40,000. The number of cases in Haiti, though, is likely much higher. There have been cases of the virus being contracted by visitors to the region from many other countries, including the U.S.

— WHY IT IS SO BAD IN HAITI: Many people in Haiti live in flimsy houses and have little protection from mosquitoes. There is a lot of standing water that creates breeding sites for mosquitoes.

TMR: In Montserrat, while there are unconfirmed reports that the virus is in Montserrat, officers at the Environmental Health department have been expressing concern that they are not being facilitated to take action to protect against the possible spread of the virus in Montserrat. Their complaint, that their ‘fogging’ equipment is outdated, health hazardous to them and expensive to operate. They say that the authorities are not cooperating to have them carry out fogging operations to eliminate or contain the mosquitoes on the island. Recently the Ministry of Health announced that they are considering steps to remedy the sitution.

Meanwhile, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises travelers visiting the region to take added precautions against chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus with symptoms similar to dengue fever. Because there is no vaccine, despite promising tests, tourists should use insect repellent and cover skin when possible to avoid bites that can create illness. Chikungunya causes fever, pain, fatigue and can lead to chronic joint pain. More than 4,600 cases have been reported throughout the Caribbean since January.