GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Chief medical officer (CMO), Dr Shamdeo Persaud, has confirmed that Guyana has recorded a total of 76 cases of the chikungunya disease from approximately 250 samples that were sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago.
The disease is not associated with high fatality, as overall, according to the Guyana government information service, there have only been three chikungunya-related deaths recorded in the Caribbean.
Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Dr Shamdeo Persaud
Persaud said that, based on reports coming from health facilities across the country, there are 580 suspected cases. However, there may be milder forms of the disease in some areas. Some of the samples sent to CARPHA are still to be tested (the lab conducts testing for other Caribbean countries as well).
The situation in Guyana in terms of the disease is not much different from other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) jurisdictions. There are currently 921 confirmed cases in the region; however, in some countries the number of cases is not as high as others.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease; transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to spread viruses such as dengue and yellow fever.
Persaud explained that the Aedes aegypti mosquito is commonly found in many areas. Water collected in containers, old tyres and other vessels provides the perfect breeding ground for these mosquitoes.
The CMO said that even though fogging and more general environmental controls are necessary, a lot more precautionary measures can and should be taken at the household level.
“We feel that a lot can be done at the household level… from the inspections carried out, we have noted that there are several common breeding grounds around the homes where even fogging would not impact effectively,” he said.
The CMO also called for greater community involvement and understanding of the virus and how it can be prevented.
Vector control personnel in Georgetown have been going around in communities where chikungunya and dengue have been identified to conduct yard inspections and distributing ‘abate’. This larvicide is placed in water to prevent the growth of larvae and ultimately the multiplication of mosquitoes.
However, there have been reports of cases where people throw out the treated water before the larvicidal agent would have had enough time to work and kill the larvae before they develop into adult mosquitoes.
The health ministry is urging residents to keep their surroundings clean to prevent them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Wearing protective clothing and using repellents and mosquito nets are also effective measures.
Chikungunya is a viral infection that is self-limiting. This means that after the usual bout of fever, the body’s immune system would take care of the viral infection. However, in rare cases, especially where people have had predisposing joint conditions like arthritis, the pain may persist.
“Once you have contracted it, you have life-long protection against; it is one of those viral diseases that you develop immunity against,” the CMO said.
At present, there are no specific antibiotic or antiviral medicines that can be used to treat chikungunya. The disease is treated symptomatically; whereby persons experiencing high fevers are prescribed fever and pain medication.
A suspected chikungunya case is identified where a person has a temperature of over 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3 F) and is also experiencing severe arthritis (joint pains). It also helps to know whether the person experiencing these symptoms hails from an area where the disease has been prevalent.