Cayman Islands health officials on Thursday confirmed 11 new cases of the chikungunya virus, including three that were transmitted locally.
The new cases bring the total chikungunya infections among Cayman Islands residents to 18 for the year. This means that the number of people in Cayman infected with the mosquito-borne virus has more than doubled since the last public health update, on Sept. 22, which put the number of cases at seven.
Of the 18 confirmed cases, four were transmitted locally and 14 were contracted overseas, public health officials said.
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar, noted 11 of 13 samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing between Sept. 16 and 24 came back positive for the virus.
“Eight had travel history to other Caribbean countries prior to becoming ill,” Dr. Kumar said. “Three had no travel history, which means those were cases of local transmission.”
The 11 patients who tested positive include four residents of George Town, four residents of West Bay, two Bodden Town residents and one person on Cayman Brac.
Since the onset of symptoms took place between Sept. 16 and 22, the patients are no longer considered infectious, health officials said. The chikungunya virus is transmitted when the Aedes aegypti mosquito bites an infected person during the first week of illness and then bites another person, passing on the virus.
Ten new potential chikungunya cases were placed under investigation during the week of Sept. 23-29.
Dr. Kumar urged the public to use mosquito repellents containing DEET on skin and to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks when outdoors during times that mosquitoes are active. Chikungunya-carrying mosquitos, unlike most mosquitoes, tend to bite between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The virus causes fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
Director of the Mosquito Research Control Unit, Bill Petrie, said eliminating breeding sites is key to combatting the disease.
“We encourage residents to clean up their yards and remove or turn over any items that may hold water,” Dr. Petrie said. The mosquito unit has already stepped up aerial spraying, vehicle-mounted fogging and hand-held fogging and is continuing to inspect and local treat yards and properties.
Cayman Islands Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said officials had some concern regarding the transmission of chikungunya, but noted that public health officials were working to ensure containment. The first case of chikungunya in the Cayman Islands was reported in June. Health officials will meet Friday to review control measures.