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Jamaica calls for joint collaboration to tackle Chikungunya

Tuesday, April 08, 2014    

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HEALTH Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson wants a collaborative approach with governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in the Americas to combat the spread of the Chikungunya (CHIK) disease, which is already affecting some countries in the Caribbean.

The minister was participating in a tele-briefing last Friday to launch World Health Day 2014, which was observed yesterday, April 7, under the theme: 'Small Bite, Big Threat'.

CHIK is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever. It has a three- to-seven-day incubation period and can cause acute, sub-acute and chronic illness.

In the acute form of the disease, there is an abrupt onset of symptoms, which include high fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pains and rash. The symptoms generally resolve in seven to 10 days, but joint pains and stiffness may last for months or years, and can become a source of chronic pain and disability. Infants and the elderly are at greater risk for more severe pain.

The launch, which was held at the offices of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, was one of several simultaneous launches held at PAHO/World Health Organisation (WHO) offices in the Americas and focused on a call to action to step up the fight against vector-borne diseases in the Americas.

Ferguson indicated that the first two CHIK cases originating in the Americas were detected in the Dutch/French Caribbean island of St Maarten/St Martin on December 6, 2013, and that imported cases had been previously reported in Brazil, Canada, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and the United States. Although outbreaks of the disease took place as early as 1952, it was the first time that the CHICK was originating in the Americas.

"To date, 10 countries and territories in the region have recorded autochthonous cases of CHIK infection — Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin (French), Saint Maarten, St Barthelemy and St Kitts and Nevis. In addition, one imported case has been recorded in Aruba," he added.

The minister pointed out that there was no treatment or vaccine for CHIK, and that the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals from mosquito bites. He said Jamaica was at risk because of the broad distribution of the vector, as well as the high mobility of persons around the region.

He suggested that all countries in the Americas implement the recommendations of PAHO/WHO in the guidelines entitled: 'Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus, Introduction in the Americas'. These include detection of cases through establishing and strengthening dengue surveillance systems; managing cases through training and assessment of impact on society; and implementation of effective public communication strategies.

Other speakers at the tele-briefing, organised by the WHO/PAHO, were director, US Centre for Disease Control, Dr Tom Frieden; US Global Malaria Co-ordinator Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer; Secretary for Health Surveillance of Brazil Dr Jarbas Barbosa; and director, PAHO/WHO, Dr Carissa F Etienne.

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