Health Officials: Chikungunya Disease Confirmed in BVI

A viral illness similar to dengue fever known as Chikungunya or CHIK has been confirmed in three residents of Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands. Chikungunya is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquitoes.

According to Dr. Marc Jerome, USVI territorial medical director, symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.

Francine Lang, director of the USVI Health Department’s Public Health Preparedness Program, said, “The Virgin Islands is a tourist destination for some people and home for many people who travel to or from destinations where mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viruses are present and outbreaks occur” and she urged residents to seek medical attention if they recently travelled to such areas and are experiencing symptoms.

Doctors in the territory have been notified and are asked to be vigilant for symptoms that may indicate infection with the Chikungunya virus, she said.

USVI Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett advised residents to be vigilant and follow these tips to reduce the spread of mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites:
– keep tires in a dry place. Punch holes in them to make sure water drains out;
– put plants that are currently in water into soil. Empty flowerpot bases weekly;
– cover or turn food containers for animals and buckets that hold water upside down;
– repair or replace damaged screens. Keep windows and doors without screens closed;
– place a screen or mesh over the overflow pipe of cisterns;
– cover infant cribs with mosquito netting;
– use mosquito repellants containing DEET. Follow instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles and nape of neck. Avoid applying to children under 2-years-old and to the hands of older children;
– and wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors.

For help with mosquito control, residents can contact the Environmental Health Division at 340-773-1311 ext. 3109 on St. Croix and 340-715-5111 in the St. Thomas-St. John-Water Island district. Residents are asked to report standing pools of water near their homes and in their communities that cannot be emptied by residents and that may benefit from larvacide.

For more information about Chikungunya, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya.

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