Cases of the mosquito-borne viral infection chikungunya have been reported in several islands in the Caribbean, leading the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel health notice. According to the CDC, this is the first time that local transmission of this particular virus has been reported in the Americas.
Chikungunya is a virus that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and causes chikungunya fever, which is characterized by fever and often debilitating joint pain as well as headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, and rash. Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 7 days and last for several days to a few weeks, although some people have reported experiencing prolonged fatigue, joint pain, or arthritis. Diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms, physical findings such as joint inflammation, and diagnostic tests for the presence of the virus. There is no vaccine available to prevent this infection and no specific antiviral treatment, just therapy to relieve symptoms; however, it is rarely fatal.
As of January 2, 2014, there have been 98 confirmed cases of chikungunya in French St. Martin and 1 case on the Dutch side of the island (St. Maarten), as well as 13 cases on Martinique, 7 cases in St. Barthelemy, and 3 cases in Guadeloupe. The CDC is warning travelers to these islands that they are at risk of acquiring this infection, as are travelers to Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, where the virus may be present.
For the latest on case counts and areas involved, see the CDC webpage Chikungunya in the Caribbean.
The CDC encourages travelers to these locations to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover skin, using insect repellent, and staying in screened or air-conditioned places. Anyone who has symptoms of chikungunya and recently traveled to these areas is encouraged to contact their health practitioner.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya in the Caribbean – Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions – Travel Health Notices. Updated January 7, 2014. Available online at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/chikungunya-caribbean through http://wwwnc.cdc.gov. Accessed January 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya fever. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/ through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed January 2014.
CDC Issues Travel Health Advisory For St. Martin. The Associated Press. December 18, 2013. Available online at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=255225064 through http://www.npr.org. Accessed January 2014.