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It is chikungunya!

Test confirms first case of virus in Jamaica

Friday, July 18, 2014    

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CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Kevin Harvey yesterday confirmed that Jamaica now has its first imported case of the chikungunya virus.

A report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) yesterday confirmed that the sample sent Tuesday is indeed positive for the virus, he said.

The case is of an individual who travelled from an affected country and fell ill.

"The ministry will continue with its heightened surveillance and will be taking steps to reduce the vector through its vector control programme," Dr Harvey said. "Individuals 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."

Symptoms of chikungunya include high fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and a rash. CARPHA's website said the fever can be continuous or intermittent and may be associated with relative bradycardia or abnormally slow heartbeat. CARPHA also said that the joint symptoms are symmetric and most commonly occur in the hands and feet, but may affect other joints.

The rash, according to CARPHA, occurs two to five days after the onset of fever in approximately half of all patients.

"It is typically maculopapular, involving the trunk and extremities, but can also include palms, soles and face," the website said.

There is no specific treatment for the chikungunya virus nor is there a vaccine, but CARPHA's website said that symptomatic treatment during acute disease comprises rest and oral fluids, acetaminophen or paracetamol, and ibuprofen, naproxen, or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent.

As of July 14, 28 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin American region reported cases of chikungunya, with 5,227 cases confirmed. They are: St Martin, which recorded the first case in the region in December 2013; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; The Bahamas; Barbados; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guyana; Haiti; Martinique; Puerto Rico; St Bathelemy; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Saint Maarten; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; US Virgin Islands; and Venezuela.

Jamaica has now joined that list.

The chikungunya virus does not often result in death, however, so far, according to the July 14 update issued by CARPHA, the number of people who have died that tested positive for the virus include three in Guadeloupe; three in Dominica; 12 in Martinique, two of which were indirectly related to chikungunya and seven whose relation with chikungunya fever is being determined; and three in St Martin, one of which is indirectly related to the virus and another whose relation could not be established.

"With respect to chikungunya, this disease is rarely fatal," Dr Karen Polson-Edwards, senior technical officer, Vectorborne Diseases and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Department of Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response, CARPHA, told the Jamaica Observer, via e-mail, yesterday. "Therefore, deaths which are indirectly related to the disease indicate that although a person may have been positive for chikungunya, he or she had other underlying conditions or illness which resulted in death. Death therefore could not be attributed to chikungunya."

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