Chikungunya Virus and Dengue Fever in St. Barts, what you need to know

St. Barths

St. Barths island

Chikungunya History and spreading to St. Barths

Aedis mosquitoe

Aedis mosquitoe (photo by loutraje)

As most of you may have heard, an epidemic has plagued St. Barths in December 2013 – 21 confirmed cases on the island of  Saint Barthélemy. This is known as the Chikungunya Virus, that comes from Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes and are distributed throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.  Its name means “to become contorted” derived from the Kimakonde language.

This viral disease was first discovered in an outbreak in Tanzania (1952) but an incident in Singapore (2008) had its first locally transmitted case where an outbreak followed, with 690 people affected and another 343 the following year

Early signs, symptoms and transmission.

First early symptoms of this disease (including joint pain which frequently happens and lasts in days to weeks) is high fever, followed by muscle pain, lethargy, headache, nausea, fatigue, and skin rashes.

In some cases, disease victims get eye, neurological and heart complications and gastrointestinal complaints. Although these are not common but if older aged people are hit, this can be a contributory factor to cause of death. This is a very serious problem that the Caribbean islands is facing.

chikungunya 1

chikungunya 1 photo by ISGlobal

Since this is viral, the mode of transmission is by a carrier through a female mosquito bite, and it bites another (human-to-human carriage). These carrier mosquitoes, known with scientific name: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, can also transport other viral diseases one of which is the killer virus, Dengue.

Differences with Chikungunya and Dengue

Some differences between the 2 mosquitoes is that Aedes aegypti mosquitoe is more likely to spread dengue and the Aedes albopictus, the chikungunya virus. However, both types of mosquitoes can spread both diseases and a person can be infected with both at the same time. Another is that the fever in dengue arises in of 3-4 days whereas in Chikungunya, symptoms appear after the duration of 1 week.

Methods of diagnosis and methods for prevention

Several methods can be used for diagnosis. Blood tests can detect the dengue virus or chikungunya virus in the blood during the first few days of infection, or antibodies against the viruses subsequently. The test to check for the virus is done if doctors suspect that the patient has either dengue or chikungunya infection.

As you can see, this problem has to be taken seriously as complications of this disease can lead to death. Remember, there is no treatment or vaccine for Chikungunya disease. The only way is to go through the disease and treat it through hospital/clinic care. But like what doctors and health experts always emphasize, “Prevention is better than cure.” On that note, here are some tips for preventing the deadly mosquitoe from spreading further or from being born at all.

chikungunya virus

chikungunya virus photo by AJC1

Here are some tips of how to prevent the mosquitoe from spreading and breeding itself:

1. Use insect repellant lotions or sprays. One highly-recommended (according to is insect repellent

chikungunya repellants

chikungunya repellants photo by cpsolidaritechik

containing “DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon), Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US]), oil of lemon eucalyptus (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals), or IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart) on exposed skin.” Remember to always check the bottle for instructions.

2. As an alternative to number 1 (this is optional as it may cost money), you can also buy an UV (ultraviolet) Light Insect Killer. This machine attracts insects, especially mosquitoes, towards it and zaps/kills the insect when it gets close enough by electrocution and burning.

3. Wear protective clothing. Wear full on pants that cover the entire legs, coupled with the right length of socks and a pair of shoes. For the upper part, longsleeves are a must but any clothing that covers the arms, foreams, wrists and hands can be worn also. Longsleeves or jackets are recommended as they cover also the neck portion of the body. For those who want to take full precaution, you can go as far as buying bee-hats. These bee-hats protect the entire head and neck. They are great for anti-insects.

chikungunya window

chikungunya window photo by turn’table

4. The windows, doors, screens and other parts of the of houses and rooms should be securely enclosed. Meaning, the screens of the windows and doors, the glass windows and doors must not be damaged or must be fully repaired if damaged. This way, mosquitoes cannot get inside the house.

5. Lastly, since mosquitoes are born and bred, population prevention really is the key.

chikungunya water

chikungunya water photo by anupaartha

Mosquitoes breed by laying its eggs in water. For this reason, containers, canisters, and other receptacles (even deep wells, drains and canals) that store water must be either covered and cleaned, or poured out. Frequency of such routines must be done weekly, just to be safe. These methods are part of what is called “Source Reduction” ( Preventing mosquitoes from entering such water storages will give them fewer opportunities to lay their eggs, as a result, their population is lessened.