Number of Chikungunya Cases Increase in St. Thomas/St. John District

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Aedes aegypti mosquito

DOH Intensifies Mitigation Efforts to Address Mosquito-Borne Virus
 
Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett reported today that the Department of Health is monitoring a recent uptick in the number of confirmed/probable cases of chikungunya in the territory. As of today, there have been a total of 30 confirmed/probable cases in the territory. In St. Thomas we have 28 cases, and on St. John there are 2 confirmed cases. Since the first confirmed case in May 2014; no cases have been confirmed on St. Croix, or Water Island. However, we are investigating 22 reported suspected cases on St. Croix and we have no reported suspected cases on Water Island to date.
 
Chikungunya is a viral disease that is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and include fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet.

There is no specific anti-viral treatment and care is usually supportive to ease symptoms. On Thursday, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) warned the Caribbean to be prepared for the “full impact” of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus eight months after the first case was detected.
 

CARPHA executive director Dr James Hospedales said that almost all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have now reported cases of the virus.
 
Dr. Marc Jerome, Territorial Medical Director for the Department of Health, stated that anyone who thinks they may have chikungunya should first seek medical care at a local health clinic to reduce any potential overburdening of the emergency rooms.  Seek emergency medical attention, if you develop any of the following symptoms:
 
Neurologic symptoms including irritability, drowsiness, severe headaches, sensitivity to light,
Chest pain, shortness of breath, or persistent vomiting,
Fever persisting for more than five days,
Intractable severe pain, extreme weakness, cold extremities, cyanosis, decreased urine output, and bleeding under skin or through any orifice,
Women in the last trimester of pregnancy, newborns, and persons with underlying disease or weakened immune systems who are most at risk for severe illness.

 
Commissioner Plaskett noted that the Department of Health continues to work with the US Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), hospital officials, healthcare providers and other agencies to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus, The department will intensify its public awareness efforts through public service announcements, radio and TV appearances, education in schools and other forums to get the message of control and prevention out to all residents.

The Department of Health’s Territorial Epidemiologist, Dr. Esther Ellis stated that “while there has been a cluster of confirmed cases recorded in the Bovoni area, other confirmed cases are noted to be dispersed throughout the island of St. Thomas.” The Epidemiology and Environmental Health Divisions are also conducting follow up investigation and surveillance in areas where confirmed cases have been recorded to help strengthen awareness and prevention in those areas. In recent weeks and over the weekend, the department’s Environmental Staff has been going into hotspots and neighborhoods to raise awareness, education and prevention.

The mosquitoes that transmit the chikungunya and dengue viruses tend to live in and around houses and buildings so it is important to mosquito proof your home by eliminating water sources that breed mosquitoes. The Department of Health conducts larviciding, a process that involves the treatment of water sources that hold mosquito eggs or larvae to kill off the immature mosquito before it becomes a flying mosquito,” Plaskett said.
 
“This method of mosquito control was chosen because it is more environmentally friendly and effective than fogging in controlling mosquito growth.”The Department initialized outreach around the virus before entry to the Territory and has increasingly continued to find ways to aid and inform the public about mosquito control. Our Fight the Bite campaign has fortified our efforts as we go into schools with our awareness poster competition, preparing climactic changes by speaking with summer camps, and facilitating discussions at other organization that wish to be a part of our protection messaging. We also publish our recommendation set by the CDC in English and Spanish in various print media. We also have recorded specials that go in depth on how this virus is affecting the Territory. The power lies with us as residents to follow through with these guideline and empower our community to protect themselves. 
 
Residents can help to mitigate the spread of chikungunya by using the following prevention methods: 

Use insect repellents – Repellents containing DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Apply repellent only to exposed skin or clothing, follow product instructions carefully. Do not use repellents on babies less than 2 months of age.

Reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets. Empty water out of old drums, tires, plants in water, plastic containers, and other items that are not being used. Turn outdoor containers upside down when not in use to prevent water collection or drain them weekly. Make sure your cistern is tightly covered so that mosquitoes cannot get inside and lay eggs.

Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.  If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
Wear clothing that protects you from mosquito bites (long-sleeved shirts and long pants).Protect infants: cover cribs, strollers and baby carriers with cotton mosquito netting at all times, day and night, both inside and outside of your home. Dress babies in loose cotton clothing that covers arms and leg.

Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
 
Chikungunya is reportable by law and all confirmed or suspected cases must be reported to the Health Department using the Chikungunya Report Form. Forms should be submitted via confidential fax at (340) 718-1508. Copies of the form, which have been distributed to health care providers, can also be found by visiting www.healthvi.org and downloaded under Forms and Applications via www.healthvi.org.
 
For more information about Chikungunya, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/prevention/index.html.