According to recent reports, there has been an outbreak of the chikungunya virus in Canada, where over 200 Canadians have fallen ill the fever and severe joint pain, as well as muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash that characterize the mosquito-borne virus.
As of now, there has been no local transmission of the virus in Canada. A spokesman from Health Canada, the country's federal health department, stated that the majority of cases have been Canadian vacationers that recently traveled to areas like the Caribbean, where the disease is endemic. In Jamaica, for example, over 60% of the population has fallen ill with the virus, and government officials have declared a state of emergency. In fact, the Caribbean islands have been shaken by this surging epidemic since the first
case arose in the northeastern Caribbean island of St. Martin-- the
first documented case of Chikungunya in the Western Hemisphere. Almost 800,000 people have been infected in the Caribbean, the majority
of them in the Dominican Republic. This is also the first time there has been an instance of local transmission of chikunguya in the Americas. The country's health minister said
last month that nearly 500,000 people there have battled chikungunya. Previously, chikungunya outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Although there is currently no medicine or vaccine to prevent chikungunya, the good news is that infection with chikungunya virus is rarely fatal. At the moment the CDC has only a Level 1 travel warning for areas in the Americas
The main health advisory given by the CDC and WHO currently is to either avoid in traveling in chikunguya-affected areas. Other than this, it is advised that measures be taken to prevent mosquito bites, but in areas where avoiding mosquito bites is nearly impossible, this guidance provides little comfort or direction for Caribbean health departments struggling in the wake of these recent outbreaks.
By Kasiemobi Udo-okoye