By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- The Bureau of Public Health (BOG) has confirmed 17 cases of the mosquito-borne chikungunya-virus in Suriname.
At a press conference on Wednesday evening, officials from BOG, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) warned that if individuals don’t take precautionary measures thousands could be affected by the virus.
The first chikungunya case was confirmed on June 7 after a man who returned from vacation in St Martin developed symptoms of the disease, said Maureen Van Dijk-Wijngaarde, deputy director of BOG.
Last week, a second case, a woman who returned from Guyana, was confirmed, while the remaining 15 were confirmed on Wednesday, prompting the health authorities to hold a press meeting to inform the public.
According to Van Dijk-Wijngaarde, two cases involve family members of the man who returned from St Martin. Fifteen of the infected persons did not travel abroad recently the BOG official noted.
“Chikungunya is a new virus for Suriname. Since there is no resistance as yet, everyone here is vulnerable. Therefore in the coming months we may expect thousands to be infected by the virus,” CARPHA’s director, James Hospedales, warned.
He further noted that, currently, the disease has spread to 24 countries and territories in the Caribbean, with so far a total of some 5,000 confirmed cases.
Health Minister, Michel Blokland, urged the public to not to dump empty bottles, cans, tyres, pails, car wrecks and refrigerators everywhere but to dispose these items in a proper fashion, since the mosquitoes that transmit the disease could lay their eggs in stagnant water in those items.
“This is not a mosquito that only shows up in the evening. It is active at daytime,” said PAHO official Gustavo Bretas.
There is no vaccination or medication to prevent the disease but, according to health officials, it is rarely fatal. Symptoms include severe joint pain, fever, headaches and sometimes a rash.