Chikungunya in Cuba

Chikungunya fever surfaces in Cuba

Chikungunya fever surfaces in Cuba
Mosquito-borne illness causes severe headaches and joint pain; rarely fatal, but no cure exists
June 18, 2014 3:59PM ET
Cuban health authorities Wednesday confirmed the country’s first six cases of chikungunya fever, a debilitating, mosquito-borne virus that is suspected of afflicting tens of thousands across the Caribbean since its arrival in the region last year.

Deriving its name from a word in the African Makonde language that loosely translates as “contorted with pain,” chikungunya is rarely fatal, but those who have contracted the virus call it a miserable experience. Chikungunya, which has long been present in Africa and Asia, was first detected in the Caribbean in December.

It is also in the United States. Health officials in North Carolina, Nebraska and Indiana last week reported the first confirmed chikungunya cases in those states. Victims had recently traveled to the Caribbean.

At least 25 cases in Florida account for the majority reported in the U.S., according to state health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, local U.S. mosquitoes apparently have not been spreading the illness.

The Cuban cases have also been among travelers. In a statement published by Communist Party newspaper Granma and other official media, the Health Ministry said those sickened were islanders who had traveled recently to Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Their conditions were “evolving favorably,” the reports said.

Some Cubans make regular trips to those and other countries to import clothing and other goods for resale. Havana has also sent large contingents of medical workers to treat the poor in Haiti and elsewhere, though the ministry said they undergo quarantine before returning.

Sufferers describe the symptoms of the sickness as a combination of a terrible flu and a sudden case of arthritis, with searing headaches, a high fever and intense muscle and joint pain.

Cuba is in the early part of its summer monsoon season, when mosquito-borne diseases typically increase.

As in other years, in recent weeks Cuban authorities have ramped up a campaign to send brigades of workers door-to-door fumigating houses, offices and government buildings nationwide.

“The Health System ratifies the need to intensify the vector-control fight that is being carried out in the country, for which it is essential that in every home and workplace the necessary actions are guaranteed to eliminate possible [mosquito] breeding grounds,” the ministry said in its statement.

It advised islanders traveling to other parts of the Caribbean to see a doctor upon their return and to seek immediate medical care if they experience symptoms typical of the virus.

According to a report by the Pan American Health Organization, there have been about 166,000 suspected and 4,600 confirmed cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean as of mid-June.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

Source: Chikungunya fever surfaces in Cuba | Al Jazeera America – http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/18/chikungunya-cubafever.html

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