Cayman is under a high alert for the outbreak of chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne virus, as it continues to spread in the region, health officials announced Friday.
“Staff of the Health Services Authority… and other local medical services providers have been advised to look for any local cases,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar.
“So far there have been no suspected cases in the Cayman Islands. Should there be any, we have arrangements with the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad…for laboratory testing,” he added.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, there have been 4,600 confirmed cases and more than 160,000 suspected cases in the region as of June. Health authorities in Cuba have confirmed six cases of the virus.
“There are no borders for communicable diseases. The easy access and frequency of air travel to endemic areas put persons at risk for the chikungunya virus. If someone is bitten by an infected mosquito in countries where chikungunya exists, the infection can be acquired,” said Dr. Kumar.
If traveling to a country where chikungunya is present, Mr. Kumar said, it is “paramount that the public protect themselves from mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents, wearing long-sleeve clothing and pants tucked into socks during travels, as chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease,” he said.
So far, 19 Caribbean countries have reported confirmed cases of chikungunya, according to an update provided by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization: Saint Maarten, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, and Saint Lucia.
More than 95 percent of the cases have been reported from five jurisdictions: Dominican Republic with 77,320 cases, Martinique, 35,000 cases, Guadeloupe, 35,000, Haiti with 11,802, and Saint Martin with 3,380.
Minister of Health Osbourne Bodden also urged residents of the Cayman Islands to be aware of the virus when traveling.
“Residents with travel plans can get advice on what diseases are present in their country of destination, and what vaccines or precautions are needed,” said Mr. Bodden.