- The Ministry of Health’s heightened surveillance system has detected a suspected imported case of the chikungunya virus.
- The individual had screening tests done at a private laboratory in Jamaica which indicated the illness.
- A sample was taken and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for confirmation.
The Ministry of Health’s heightened surveillance system has detected a suspected imported case of the chikungunya virus. Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Harvey says the case is of an individual who travelled from an affected country and fell ill. The individual had screening tests done at a private laboratory in Jamaica which indicated the illness. A sample was taken and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for confirmation. Should this be positive it will confirm Jamaica’s first imported case of the chikungunya virus.
“This does not indicate local spread of the virus and we continue to monitor persons living in and around areas visited by the individual. We have heightened our vector control activities to reduce the possibility of local spread,” Dr. Harvey explained.
The Ministry of Health has been putting measures in place for more than two years in anticipation of chikungunya virus reaching our shores. Persons travelling to and from countries which have confirmed cases of the virus should ensure that they protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent containing DEET and covering their body as much as possible by wearing long sleeved clothing for example.
There is no specific treatment for the chikungunya virus nor is there a vaccine. Dr. Harvey says therefore that apart from protecting ourselves from mosquito bites we should also reduce the possibility of mosquito breeding.
“The Aedes aegypti is a day biting mosquito that will almost always be found in and around areas where people live, work and play. The mosquito breeds in water that settles around homes, schools, churches, workplaces and playgrounds. Persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites in and around their homes, workplaces and communities by getting rid of old tyres and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water,” he urged.
Symptoms of Chikungunya fever include high fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain mainly in the limbs and large joints and a rash. Although it does not often result in death, joint pains and stiffness can last for months and even years. It may become a source of chronic pain and disability resulting in the individual being unable to attend work or school.
Infants and the elderly are at greater risk for more severe disease. There are some diseases that may increase the risk for severe disease such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.
Anyone who experiences any of the symptoms of chikungunya is asked to visit their doctor or the nearest health centre immediately.
As of July 14, 2014, 28 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin American Region have reported cases of chikungunya with a total of 5,227 confirmed.