Aedes aegypti mosquito
By Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- As a regional outbreak persists, public health officials in the Cayman islands have confirmed the first local case of imported chikungunya illness by a returning resident.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said the patient, who was treated and released from the Cayman Islands Hospital last week, is no longer infectious. He also confirmed that there is no evidence of local transmission of chikungunya in the Cayman Islands.
“Chikungunya is not directly transmitted from person to person, but a mosquito biting a person with chikungunya fever can spread the virus to another person. Hence persons, who develop symptoms within two weeks of having returned from countries with chikungunya cases, are considered imported,” Kumar explained.
“While we need to be alert, and take preventative measures, we need not be alarmed of one case. For Aedes mosquitoes to transmit chikungunya they must bite infected persons, who then become infectious and transmit the disease,” he emphasized.
“Hence, persons who develop chikungunya symptoms within two weeks of having returned from countries with chikungunya cases are advised to consult their physician and inform of their travel history,” added Kumar.
Meanwhile, in St Kitts and Nevis, the number of suspected and/or confirmed chikungunya cases is in the hundreds, according to Chief Medical Officer Patrick Martin.
"We’re up to about 30 confirmed cases up to about a week ago, but there are more suspect cases, or cases that are clinically confirmed," Martin said Monday, in giving an update on the situation in the federation.
"We don't have to do blood tests on everybody. Blood tests are being reserved now for persons who may have a presentation that is unusual or unexpected. If a person, heaven forbid, requires intensive care, well then you test. But ordinarily right now we're not testing everybody anymore... just like throughout the Caribbean, the number is in the hundreds basically," Martin said.
The CMO said he expects chikungunya to be around for a while yet.
"More and more persons have been experiencing chikungunya. We expect this to continue for several more months before it starts to level off, because it's a new disease and it really has to go through the population,” he said.
According to hemispheric health agencies, the number of suspected chikungunya cases in the Americas rose to more than 185,000 by June 20. So far this year, 26 Caribbean countries have reported over 4,970 confirmed cases.
The Caribbean countries reporting chikungunya:
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands Cuba, Dominica, Dominica Republic, French Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St Barthelemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, St Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands , US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
Key Facts on Chikungunya:
• Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected 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 fever, 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.
• Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions globally, with considerable morbidity and suffering.
• 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 a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.