Chikungunya Epidemic in the Caribbean
I’ve been reading about the Chikungunya epidemic that seems to be affecting many people in the Caribbean. The Chikungunya issue is particularly concerning now since it is transmitted by mosquitoes and the Caribbean is in the midst of hurricane season which is associated with higher populations of mosquitoes due to all the flooding.
Chikungunya is a species of ALPHAVIRUS causing an acute dengue-like fever and is transmitted by the same type of mosquito.
This WHO/Pan American Health Organization site has a lot of up to date information about the current epidemic in the Caribbean. You can link to a PDF file that summarizes the impact and infection rate by country.
Right now the incidence rate of Chikigunya is 14,102/100,000 on St Martin and 13,112/100,000 on St. Barthes. This is a pretty high incidence of 13-14% in these countries.
Chikigunya is known as “the virus that bends up” for the reason that the joints become swollen and twisted in pain. There is also commonly 104 degree fevers, conjunctivitis, nausea and vomiting, and raised rashes, eruptions and/or lesions on the whole body including the palms and soles of the feet with intense itching.
Here is a video from WHO/Pan American Health Org about it.
And this BBC story about the epidemic in the Caribbean:
These are photos the WHO put up on their Flickr account of people they are treating now in the Dominican Republic
The text there says: “In its acute phase is resolved in 3 to 7 days, yielding fever and joint pain, but, when presented most intensely it forces people to have to rest for the pain and inflammation. In the chronic phase, which occurs in about half of those affected and most often in people over age-generates intense pain and swelling in the same joints affected in the acute phase, and are cyclic, with impact on quality of life and requires specialized health services.”
“Chikungunya disease rarely results in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Most people who get sick feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may last for months or years.” (CDC site)
“Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability.” (WHO, Pan American Health Organization)
“The mosquito that carries chikungunya virus can bite during the day and night, both indoors and outdoors..”
“There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.”
“The only way to prevent chikungunya is to prevent mosquito bites. Preventing bites can be difficult, but it is important as you can get sick after just one bite.”
The CDC alert advises to reduce the risk of getting chikungunya by the following:
- Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
This is obviously a serious outbreak and hopefully the local populations can protect themselves against this epidemic.