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Region at risk from spread of chikungunya virus

images-Caribbean-CARPHA_virus_215324297_186868573From Caribbean360

Since the outbreak in French St Martin was reported on December 5, cases have been confirmed in several other Caribbean countries. (File photo)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Monday January 13, 2014, CMC – The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported further increase in the number of confirmed and probable cases of the chikungunya virus on the French side of St Martin and other Caribbean islands.

In an epidemiological update on “autochthonous cases of chikungunya fever in the Caribbean region” on Saturday, the ECDC said that, as of Thursday, there were 201 “probable or confirmed cases” in French St Martin and two confirmed cases on the Dutch side of the island.

ECDC also said there were 48 “probable or confirmed cases” in Martinique; 25 “probable or confirmed cases” in St Barthélemy; 10 “probable or confirmed cases, including one imported case from St Martin in Guadeloupe”; and one “confirmed case imported from Martinique in French Guiana.

An outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean was reported from the French section of St Martin on December 5.

According to the ECDC it was the first time that autochthonous transmission of the virus has been documented in the Americas.

An ECDC risk assessment of the outbreak published on December 12 concluded that the risk of the disease spreading to other islands in the region was “high.”

“Since then, new chikungunya cases have been reported from several islands in the Caribbean,” it said, adding that chikungunya transmission was detected during “an ongoing dengue outbreak in the Caribbean.”

The ECDC said dengue and chikungunya viruses are transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito species.

“The naïve population, the presence of an effective vector in the region and the movement of people in and between islands are factors that make it likely the outbreak will continue to spread geographically and increase in numbers,” it warned.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease, transmitted by the bite of Aedes mosquitoes. It is endemic in parts of Africa, South-east Asia and on the Indian subcontinent.

Last month, the Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States said it was “closely following new reports of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus among residents of the French side of St Martin in the Caribbean.

The CDC has issued a travel health notice, advising those planning to travel to St Martin to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

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