Chikungunya Fever Symptoms and Cases Found


The tiny island of two nations, St. Martin/St. Maarten, shared by France and the Netherlands for over 350 years, is facing an outbreak of Chikungunya fever; a painful, tropical, mosquito borne virus. According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), locally-acquired cases of Chikungunya were detected in the Caribbean.

On Dec. 17, the Agency reported notification of 10 confirmed cases and an additional four probable cases of the Chikungunya virus infection on the French side of St. Martin. There have been 20 other unconfirmed cases of patients suspected of having the disease. CARPHA is awaiting lab test results in those cases. According to CARPHA, it is likely that the number of confirmed cases will increase.

The health authorities on both sides of the island are in cooperation and have developed an epidemiological surveillance program to monitor and control mosquito breeding sites.  Health officials have also advised island residents on how to protect themselves.

Transmitted mainly by the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the Yellow Fever Mosquito (Aedes aegypti). The Asian Tiger Mosquito is an invasive species from Asia that can now be found in parts of the United States. The Yellow Fever Mosquito, common in Florida, is responsible for the spread of Dengue fever, Yellow fever and Chikungunya.

Chikungunya is a Dengue-like illness.  Symptoms of Chikungunya fever appear between four and seven days after initial infection from a mosquito bite. Symptoms of Chikungunya include: high fever, rash, headache, and nausea, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain and fatigue.  The illness may last up to five days but the effects to then joints of the infected person may last for months or years. Cases requiring hospitalization are rare and once recovered patients develop a lifelong immunity.


According to CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. C. James Hospedales, both sides of the island are also currently experiencing a Dengue fever epidemic. The mosquito that transmits Chikungunya fever is widely distributed in the region. According to Dr. Hospedales the region is at risk for the spread of the virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chikungunya has been identified in approximately 40 countries mainly in Asia and Africa. The disease also shares some of the clinical signs that are associated with Dengue fever which can lead to be misdiagnoses in areas where Dengue fever is common.

This is the first time that reports of locally acquired cases have been discovered in the Caribbean. There have previously reported cases were imported by travelers from 8 countries. Visitors to the island from Brazil, Martinique, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Canada and the United States.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Chikungunya fever. The disease has infected millions of people in Africa and Asia since it was first recorded in 1952.  The word ‘Chikungunya’ originates from a verb in the Bantu language Kimakonde of Africa which means ‘to become contorted’. It is a reference to the painfully contorted appearance of those suffering with joint pain from the virus.  The best way to protect yourself from Chikungunya and other mosquito transmitted diseases is to avoid mosquito bites and to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in and around your home or environment.


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