Chikungunya in Cuba

Ever heard of chikungunya? Better get used to the word because it’s getting closer.

Tue Feb 11 2014 Posted by Jennifer Yang, Global health reporter at 11:21 AM

Ever heard of chikungunya? Better get used to the word because it’s getting closer.
Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease, has caused outbreaks in more than 50 countries since 1952 and recently entered the Western Hemisphere for the very first time.

Do you know the word “chikungunya”? It means “that which bends up” in the Bantu language of the Makonde people in Tanzania and Mozambique and is pronounced “chik-en-GUN-ya.”
And you better get used to saying it – because chikungunya just crept a little bit closer.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease that was first identified in southern Tanzania in 1952. It causes fever and debilitating joint pain (hence the evocative name) and is often misdiagnosed as dengue – another painfully-debilitating disease also carried by the same pesky mosquitoes . Chikungunya has no vaccine or specific treatment.
After its emergence in Tanzania, chikungunya continued spreading across sub-Saharan Africa and quickly entered Asia, causing an outbreak in Bangkok in 1958. India experienced epidemics throughout the early ‘60s and ‘70s and after a 32-year pause, there was a massive and devastating outbreak in 2006 that affected more than 1.4 million people across 13 states. One year after the Indian outbreak, Italy said ciao to chikungunya, which found a willing host in the recently-introduced Aedes albopictus mosquito (which arrived in Italy in the early 90s, likely by hitching a ride inside imported rubber tires ).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, chikungunya is now in 54 countries . And recently, it crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the Western Hemisphere for the very first time.

In early December, the World Health Organization confirmed that chikungunya had made its debut in the Caribbean, causing infections on the French side of St. Martin. The disease has since popped up in six other Caribbean locales : the Dutch side of St. Martin (Sint Maarten), Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands and Dominica.
The French side of St. Martin has been the hardest hit, with more than 470 laboratory-confirmed cases, according to the New York Times, which recently published an article about chikungunya’s Caribbean incursion. The NYT reports the new virus has already impacted tourism in the area – the travel search engine Kayak has reportedly seen a 75 per cent drop in searches for St. Martin in the last three weeks, compared to the same time period in 2013.
The NYT quotes experts as saying that chikungunya will likely become entrenched throughout Central and South America. However, it is important to note that this new virus is unlikely to gain a foothold in the U.S. anytime soon – the mosquitoes that spread chikungunya prefer warmer climates. This suggests that unlike West Nile (which also first originated in Africa – see “West Nile”), chikungunya probably won’t be moving to Canada anytime soon.
But Canadians who travel to countries where chikungunya is endemic are at risk of contracting the disease. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada , there are roughly five to ten cases of chikungunya “imported” to Canada every year, mostly by people who visited Asia.
The health agency also said there haven’t been any cases of Canadians contracting chikungunya in the Caribbean – yet. But given that Canadians made 667,700 visits to four of the affected Caribbean countries in the last three years, it is probably only a matter of time – especially if chikungunya ever spreads to Cuba or Mexico, two of Canada’s top three tourism destinations with 2.7 million Canadian visits in 2012 alone .
So if you’re planning a beachfront vacation in St. Martin anytime soon, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read this first.

Source: Ever heard of chikungunya? Better get used to the word because it’s getting closer. | Toronto Star –

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