Infectious disease trackers from the National Infectious Disease Forecast Center are warning against travel to several parts of the Caribbean due to the introduction of the Chikungunya virus, an African-origins virus that has found a new home.
As of today, the list of affected areas includes:
- 98 cases confirmed + 20 probable cases on St. Maarten
- 8 confirmed cases on St. Barts
- 13 confirmed on Guadeloupe
- 1 imported case in Guyane
According to Dr. James Wilson, Director of the NIDFC, Chikungunya is rarely fatal and often presents as similar to dengue fever, saying that “symptoms are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain. The term ‘chikungunya’ means ‘that which bends up’ in the Kimakonde language of Mozambique.” In addition, some patients are reporting the joint pain lasts for weeks or months.
The incubation period is from two to 12 days, but is typically between three days to a week. The virus is transmitted through mosquito bite. There is currently no vaccine or medication to combat the virus; officials are suggesting the use of DEET for protection.
Wilson cautioned that there can be a delay in reporting from countries dependent on tourism. “It’s a ‘don’t test for it and you don’t have to report it’ situation,” he says, “and we’ve seen this worldwide. [The countries] don’t want to blow their season-based economy, so they’re leaking information as slowly as they can.”
The NIDFC is urging physicians in southern U.S. states, particularly Florida and Texas, to keep a lookout for the virus, especially from people who have recently traveled to the region. States that have direct non-stop air traffic from the Caribbean are the most susceptible.
Although the NIDFC is warning against travel to these areas, the CDC currently only has a “Practice Usual Precautions” advisory posted. We’ll see if this changes in the new few days.
If you’re a physician or a health care practitioner, let us know in the comments below if you’ve seen any cases, particularly in the southern U.S. There is an active conversation going on inside Sermo where we are tracking the latest updates. If you’re an M.D. or a D.O., please join us.