Caribbean Travelers – Beware of Chikungunya Virus

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Travelling to the Caribbean? If you don’t want to come back home with an undesirable souvenir, read this important information about mosquito-borne chikungunya virus.

Thousands of Caribbean vacationers and tens of people in Florida have gotten the chikungunya virus from mosquito bites. After visiting French Polynesia, Lindsay Lohan was hospitalized for contracting Chikungunya during this winter holiday season.

Since it spread from Asia and Africa in late 2013, chikungunya has infected a million people in the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of South America and Mexico.

The word “chikungunya” means “that which bends up”, referring to the contorted posture of people affected with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with this disease. The infection features sudden onset fever usually lasting two to seven days, and joint pains typically lasting weeks or months but sometimes years.

The virus is passed to humans by mosquitos. Animal hosts of the virus include monkeys, birds, cattle, and rodents.

Chikungunya Signs and Symptoms

The incubation period of chikungunya disease is typically 3-7 days, but could be up to 12 days. Symptoms include sudden fever usually above 39oC and strong joint pain. Typically, the fever lasts for two days and then ends abruptly. Rash, muscle pain, headache, insomnia, fatigue, nausea or vomiting and inflammation of the eyes may also be present.

The symptoms, like pain in your ankles, knees or fingers, come and go. You never know when it may happen.

Be alert for symptoms when you get home. You may have to explain them to your doctor, who may be hearing about chikungunya disease for the first time.

Chikungunya Vaccine and Treatment

Currently, no approved vaccines and no specific treatment are available.

Although no specific treatment is known, but medications can be used to reduce symptoms. Rest and fluids may also be useful.

Chikungunya Prevention

The best means of prevention is overall mosquito control and the avoidance of mosquito bites. These include using insect repellents with substances such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide; also known as N,N’-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide or NNDB), icaridin (also known as picaridin and KBR3023), PMD (p-menthane-3,8-diol, a substance derived from the lemon eucalyptus tree), or IR3535.

Wearing bite-proof long sleeves and trousers also offers protection. Securing screens on windows and doors will help to keep mosquitoes out of the house. However, this will have only a limited effect, since many contacts between the mosquitoes and humans occur outside.


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