February 11, 2014
Health Ministry takes precautions as chikungunya virus gets closer to SVG

With a mosquito-borne virus affecting a growing number of persons across the Caribbean, St Vincent and the Grenadines has started taking precautions to ensure that an outbreak does not occur here.{{more}}

To date, Dominica has confirmed 13 cases of the chikungunya virus, which causes a dengue-like sickness, with symptoms that include sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea and rash.

Dr Rosmond Adams, who works in the Department of Wellness and Disease Prevention Management, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the virus first originated in the French and Dutch territories, with the British Virgin Islands being the first English speaking Caribbean country to record a case of chikungunya.

Adams stated that no cases have been recorded in this country and that a prevention plan is being finalized.

“What the committee has done is that…we have a plan in order to detect the virus in a timely manner,” he said.

Adams explained that the National Surveillance Committee meets weekly to address whatever viruses that may affect the population and put plans in place to combat such threats.

While there is no cause for panic, Adams noted that the aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the dengue virus, is also the species that transmits the chikungunya virus.

“This virus has never been present in our environment, so persons would not be immune to the virus. They will be more susceptible to catching the virus,” he said.

However, he gave assurance that the committee is working assiduously to finish the plan that will detect and contain the virus, if it were to reach Vincentian shores.

Adams further indicated that the Inspection and Control Unit would be “beefed up” and will be doing heavy sensitization on mosquito control.

Chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache also noted that it is important to prevent mosquito breeding in and around homes, schools and workplaces.

She also pointed out various precautionary measures that should be taken.

“Not having water collecting around the home, workplaces, garbage, utensils, things that would collect water and allow the mosquitoes to breed. That’s our main focus. It’s not just important to have your homes clear of garbage and water collecting objects; schools and workplaces, those other surroundings, they need also to be kept clean,” the CMO said.

“[Be] aware of the fact that (the symptoms are) very high fever, body aches, pains behind the eyes; those sort of things you should probably check your district clinic.”