By Caribbean News Now contributor
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- According to the latest report from the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) based in Stockholm, Sweden, new cases chikungunya virus have been reported in several countries in the Caribbean.
As of January 9, 2014, the following numbers of cases of chikungunya fever were reported:
- 201 probable or confirmed cases in Saint Martin (FR);
- 2 confirmed cases in St Maarten (NL);
- 48 probable or confirmed cases in Martinique;
- 25 probable or confirmed cases in Saint Barthélemy;
- 10 probable or confirmed cases including one imported case from Saint Martin in Guadeloupe;
- 1 confirmed case imported from Martinique in French Guiana.
Additional cases have since been reported in the British Virgin islands (3) and Dominica (1).
An outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean region was reported from the French part of the island of Saint Martin on December 5, 2013. It is the first time that autochthonous (indigenous) transmission of the virus has been documented in the Americas. An ECDC risk assessment of the outbreak published on 12 December concluded that the risk of the disease spreading to other islands in the region was high.
Chikungunya transmission was detected during an ongoing dengue outbreak in the Caribbean. Dengue and chikungunya viruses are transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito species.
The uninformed population, the presence of an effective vector in the region and the movement of people in and between islands are factors that make it likely the outbreak will continue to spread geographically and increase in numbers, the ECDC said.
Since the dengue outbreak is ongoing, clinicians and travel medicine clinics should remain vigilant regarding imported dengue and chikungunya cases from the Caribbean.
Prevention of chikungunya is currently based on protection against mosquito bites, as exposure to infected mosquitoes is the principal risk for infection.
Chikungunya is endemic in parts of Africa, South-east Asia and on the Indian subcontinent. In Europe, every year, imported cases among tourists are identified in several countries.