February 14, 2014
MoH on alert for Chikungunya virus

Public urged to take precautionary measures to prevent mosquito breeding{{more}}

In the light of recent developments in the wider Caribbean, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment considers it prudent at this time to alert the Vincentian public to the presence of the Chikungunya virus in the region.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.

So far, several cases of persons infected with the Chikungunya virus have been reported in neighbouring Caribbean islands, including Dominica, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands.

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment would wish to inform the general public that there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of this viral illness here in St Vincent and the Grenadines to date.

The Ministry is taking a proactive approach in dealing with the situation. The National Surveillance Committee, which meets weekly to address diseases that are of public health concern, has devised a plan of action aimed at the early detection, a coordinated response, and the control of the spread of the virus, in the event that it reaches St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dr Rosmond Adams, chair of the National Surveillance Committee in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, says that this plan of action also includes continued measures to control the spread of the mosquito vector. A major component of the plan is the informed participation of the public. In recognition of this, the Ministry will, through a series of activities, seek to inform the public about Chikungunya.

In the meantime, chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache urges members of the public to remain alert and to take the necessary steps to avoid creating breeding sites for mosquitoes. Because this is a new virus in the region, people now have increased susceptibility to being infected, as there is little or no immunity from prior exposure. Therefore, the control of the vector, the mosquito, is the best method of decreasing the probability of being infected with the Chikungunya virus.

The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment urges all Vincentians to play their part in preventing an outbreak of the virus here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Citizens are, therefore, urged to ensure that there are no empty receptacles or clogged drains around their homes and communities that could provide a home for mosquitoes to breed.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever, frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, and usually lasts for a few days, but may be prolonged to weeks.

There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for Chikungunya. Treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including fever and joint pain, using anti-pyretics, optimal analgesics and fluids.

Prevention and control of the virus relies largely on reducing the number of natural and artificial water-filled container habitats that support breeding of the mosquitoes.

People displaying signs and symptoms typical of being infected with Chikungunya virus should visit health centres to seek medical attention.