ST THOMAS, USVI -- Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett reported on Monday that US Virgin Islands health officials investigated the first confirmed imported case of chikungunya in a return traveler to St Thomas that was associated with a recent cruise to the Caribbean.
Chikungunya is a viral disease that is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease or specific antiviral treatment. Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and include fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
Plaskett said, “There have been an increasing number of confirmed cases reported in the Caribbean, prompting the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to issue a level 1 watch for the Caribbean countries. CDC is advising travelers to the Caribbean to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
Although there have not been any confirmed local transmission in the territory, residents and visitors are advised to take precautionary measures to avoid mosquito bites such as:
• Use insect repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Skin-so-Soft
• Mosquito proof your home by eliminating water sources that breed mosquito. Reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
• Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
• When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
• Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
• Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
• See a physician if any of the above symptoms have been affecting you and if you are are sick with Chikungunya or Denque, avoiding mosquito bites will help prevent further spread of the disease.
Dr. Marc Jerome, medical director physician, added, “The symptoms of chikungunya like those of dengue, also spread by mosquitoes, can include joint swelling, headache, muscle pain, or rash. People most at risk for severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, elderly, and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. The symptoms can be severe and disabling, however, chikungunya disease does not often result in death and most patients report improvement within a week. If you have any of these symptoms see a physician.”
Chikungunya is reportable by law and all confirmed or suspected cases must be reported to the Health Department.