The CDC is closely monitoring new reports of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus among residents of the French side of St. Martin in the Caribbean. This is the first time the disease has been reported among non-travelers in the Western Hemisphere.
Ten cases on the island have been confirmed according to The World Health Organization. The affected residents of St. Martin had not traveled recently, which suggest that the virus is now present in island populations of mosquitoes and is being spread locally.
Chikungunya virus is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that spread dengue virus (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). The mosquitoes that spread it are also known to be in some areas of the U.S.
The symptoms of chikungunya resemble those of dengue. The joint pain associated with chikungunya can be severe and debilitating. Patients recover in about 1 week though long-term joint pain can occur in some patients.
In 2011, the CDC and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released joint guidelines to help establish regional response plans towards chikungunya.
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. Protective measures include using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, using air conditioning, and using door and window screens to keep mosquitoes out.
Also, travelers returning from the Caribbean who experience fever and joint pains as well as other symptoms of chikungunya (eg, headache, muscle pains, rash) should seek medical care. Healthcare providers should be on alert for possible cases.
For more information call (800) 232-4636 or visit CDC.gov.