So, You Think You Won’t Get Chikungunya Fever While Visiting the Caribbean?
You should be aware that there is a raging epidemic of chikungunya fever in the Caribbean. It all started a little over 6 months ago, when the first case was reported in St. Martin in a traveller who became infected in some other part of the world (southeast Asia or Africa) where this virus is common.
Now, it is estimated that there may be more than 300,000 cases of chikungunya fever in 22 countries in the Caribbean area. Tens of thousands of cases have been reported from Haiti and the Dominican Republic which have been hard hit.
So, can you get it while lying on the beaches in the tourist resorts? Yes, you can. You can catch this virus wherever there are mosquitoes to spread this infection, and that is just about everywhere in the Caribbean. And, so far, in the USA, there have been 141 cases in 29 states in people who have returned from Caribbean visits. Almost half of these cases are from Florida.
Why worry since this disease is very rarely fatal and since many people who get infected have no symptoms at all? If you are one of these, great; but if not, you will have a fever and very severe joint pains that can be debilitating and can last for weeks and even months. And there is no vaccine or treatment for this infection. Some simple precautions, like using insect repellent, avoiding sleeping in places without mosquito nets, wearing loose fitting but long sleeve and long pant clothing to avoid mosquito bites can save you a lot of aggravation.