The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has reported that for the first time, locally-acquired cases of chikungunya have been detected in the Caribbean. The Agency recently received notification of ten confirmed cases of locally acquired chikungunya virus infection on the French side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
Chikungunya is a viral disease, carried mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes a dengue-like sickness. Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with chikungunya than with dengue. The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The majority of clinical signs and symptoms last three to 10 days, but joint pain may persist longer. Severe cases requiring hospitalisation are rare.
The health authorities on both sides of the island of St. Martin are cooperating closely in response to the cases and have enhanced epidemiological surveillance, carried out measures to control mosquito breeding sites and are advising people on how to protect themselves. There is currently no evidence of cases on the Dutch side of the island, or in other parts of the Caribbean.
There is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya, which has infected millions of people in Africa and Asia since the disease was first recorded in 1952.