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Public health warning: Don’t dismiss Chikungunya mosquito virus
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Officials from the Ministry of Health are concerned that members of the public are not taking on warnings about the Chikungunya virus. While other Caribbean territories continue to battle the spread of the virus, local health officials have sought more information about the treatment and prevention methods being used in the region. With 18 deaths reported in the Caribbean so far, local officials are hoping to stem the spread of the virus in T&T and prevent it from becoming an epidemic. There were three deaths recorded in the Dominican Republic, three in Guadeloupe and 12 in Martinique. Dr Clive Tilluckdharry, principal medical officer, environment, at the Ministry of Health, recently visited St Lucia to witness firsthand how it was dealing with the epidemic. He observed elderly people, pregnant women and children experiencing seizures being treated. However, he said, the cases were not severe, although he had witnessed some people unable to do simple tasks, like using their wrists, hands and feet, as their joints remained swollen. In a telephone interview yesterday, Tilluckdharry said T&T was “naive” about this virus. Pointing out that the entire population was susceptible, he said in St Lucia, the epidemic began after imported cases were diagnosed. T&T has confirmed three imported cases from people returned from Dominica and Bequia. Tilluckdharry urged people to heed the ministry's call to reduce mosquito breeding sites. Precautions On its Web site, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) urged travellers to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Among the precautions suggested was wearing long pants and long-sleeved tops; using repellants containing DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil; mosquito nets; air-conditioning when indoors and screening windows and doors. About the virus Chikungunya is an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. The symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, rash, swelling of the joints and muscle or joint pains. The symptoms can last for a few days or even a few weeks but has been known to leave some tired for several weeks. Countries with cases • Bahamas: 1. • Cuba: 11. • Turks and Caicos Islands: 17. • Haiti: 14. • Dominican Republic: 18, with three deaths. • Puerto Rico: 20. • British Virgin Islands: 20. • Anguilla: 33. • St Kitts/Nevis: 28. • US Virgin Islands: 7. • Antigua/Barbuda: 4. • Guadeloupe: 1,328, with three deaths. • Dominica: 141. • Martinique: 1,515, with 12 deaths. • St Lucia: 30. • St Vincent and the Grenadines: 67. • Barbados: 4. • Grenada: 5. • T&T: 3. • Venezuela: 28. • Suriname: 17. • Guyana: 16. • French Guiana: 601.