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Canadian authorities issue health travel warning to the Caribbean

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | 9:17 AM    

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OTTAWA, Canada - The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a public health notice to nationals travelling to the Caribbean in the wake of the outbreak of the chikungunya virus.

 “The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that travelers protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to the Caribbean,” warned the agency in a statement here.

It said there have been “confirmed cases” of chikungunya on the Caribbean islands of St. Martin/St Maarten, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthélemy and the British Virgin Islands.

The Canadian health agency said these cases marked the first time that locally acquired transmission of chikungunya has been detected in the region of the Americas.

It also said “French Guiana has reported cases of chikungunya related to travel within the Caribbean.” 

“Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel,” the Public Health Agency of Canada urged. “Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly during peak mosquito biting times around sunrise and sunset.

The Washington-based Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) said Chikungunya is a viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes and causes fever and severe joint pain.

Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

In December last year, PAHO and its umbrella organization, the World Health (WHO) said they received confirmation of the first cases of autochthonous transmission of chikungunya in the Americas .

What is Chikungunya

Key facts

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.

There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.

Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions, with considerable morbidity and suffering.

The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. It is an RNA virus that belongs to the alphavirus genus of the family Togaviridae. The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain (arthralgia).

Signs and symptoms

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks.

Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs.

Transmission

Chikungunya has been identified in nearly 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and also in the Americas.

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