September 19, 2014

CARPHA has not stopped testing for chikungunya

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) continues to test for the chikungunya virus, contrary to recent media reports.

At a media conference on September 11 at the agency’s headquarters in Port of Spain, CARPHA’s Executive Director, Dr C James Hospedales, pointed out that the agency has scaled up its capability to meet the increased demand for testing in the Caribbean, in light of the evolving epidemic.{{more}}

Dr Hospedales explained that CARPHA adheres to public health surveillance principles, and that once several persons with chikungunya have had their diagnoses confirmed through laboratory testing in an area within a country, then testing is only carried out for certain groups of people, based on clinical symptoms and the following criteria:

1. Newly affected areas of countries, to confirm that the virus is present and circulating in that community;

2. People who are severely ill and hospitalized;

3. Pregnant mothers who are suspected of having the disease.

Additionally, if a dengue test is positive, it is unlikely that the person would be tested for chikungunya. Given this policy, Dr Hospedales stated that it is not necessary to test every single case, but reiterated that the agency continues testing for the region.

CARPHA continues to partner with regional carriers, Caribbean Airlines and LIAT, for the transportation of specimens for testing at its laboratory in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. CARPHA has the only public health laboratory in the English-speaking Caribbean that conducts tests for the chikungunya virus.