Chikungunya Fever in the Caribbean — Tourist Warning

Written by Ronald St. John

March 15, 2014

Chikungunya Fever in the Caribbean — Tourist Warning

Since the first ever appearance of the chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere approximately 10 weeks ago, the spread of chikungunya in the eastern Caribbean appears to be unstoppable. It was first detected in St. Martin. In just the last week, there were an additional 507 probable or confirmed cases reported. Martinique is reporting the highest numbers, 1,058 confirmed or probable chikungunya cases and an additional 3,940 suspected cases.

During the past week, the number of new cases reported increased in some of the affected areas, up to an estimated total of 8,000 cases or more for the entire area since the epidemic began. No new affected areas or islands were reported. The islands affected continue to be St Martin/St Maarten, Martinique, St Barthelemy, Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Dominica, Aruba, St. Kitts and Nevis, and French Guiana in mainland South America. A new suspected case in a second city in French Guiana (Sinnamary) suggests that the disease is spreading in that country.

You need to watch out for the mosquitoes that carry this virus. Don’t get bitten.

Chikungunya virus infections may have long lasting health consequences. You can reduce your risk of exposure to this virus by taking all necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Follow these simple steps:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Always follow product directions and reapply as directed. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. Follow package directions when applying repellent on children.
  • Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permethrin treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents), especially if you are going to be outdoors much of the time. You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
  • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last. If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin. 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.

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