Officials: No chikungunya so far this year

Health officials reported this week that, so far, 2015 has been chikungunya free for Cayman.

The results of six suspected cases received last month showed that none tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease. Officials are awaiting the results of samples relating to another five suspected cases – in all five cases, there was no travel history to countries where chikungunya is endemic.

Last year, 44 cases of chikungunya were confirmed in the Cayman Islands.

“There have been only three suspected cases per week during the past three weeks,” said Cayman’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar. “This has been the result of us being out of the rainy season and anti-mosquito measures by the public and Mosquito Research and Control Unit.”

“Let us keep it that way,” he urged.

The drop off in cases in Cayman is indicative of the trend throughout the Caribbean region, which has seen an overall decrease in the number of cases reported.

As of Feb. 2, 21,724 confirmed or probable cases of chikungunya had been reported to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in the region since the beginning of the outbreak in December 2013. The total number of suspected cases is 855,054, according to health officials.

The first cases were reported in the northeastern Caribbean island of Saint Martin in late 2013. Cases have since been confirmed in 23 other countries in the region. The disease was reported to have spread to the United Kingdom at the end of 2014. Public Health England reported 160 cases between September and December last year, with many of the cases blamed on travel to the Caribbean. The countries from which cases were most frequently reported included Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada.

The virus is characterized by fever and painful joints, which can last anywhere from days to weeks. Currently, there is no vaccination to treat or prevent chikungunya from spreading. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is maintaining a Watch Level 1, or a warning to use general precautions in certain Caribbean areas. Travellers are urged to use bug spray with DEET and keep their skin covered as much as possible