In December 2013, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were notified of two confirmed cases of locally acquired (autochthonous) chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in the French part of the Caribbean island of St Martin. These were the first confirmed autochthonous CHIKV cases reported in the WHO Americas Region. As of 19 December 2013, the local health authorities of the French Caribbean Islands have reported 26 confirmed and 12 probable autochthonous cases of CHIKV. Three foci in the French part of the island have been identified: Oyster Pound, Sandy Ground and quartier d’Orleans, and new foci appear to be emerging. An additional three cases have also now been detected in the Dutch part of the Island.
The two main vectors of CHIKV, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, are distributed throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, so the region is highly susceptible to the introduction and spread of the virus. PAHO and WHO have recommended that Member States establish and maintain the capacity to detect, confirm and manage cases, and implement an effective public communication strategy to reduce vector presence.
CHIKV is a viral infection found in humans and non-human primates transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It is known to be present in parts of Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, South and South East Asia. The first transmission within continental Europe was reported from north-eastern Italy in August 2007.
In symptomatic illness, there is the sudden onset of fever, headache, myalgia and arthralgia. After two to three days, a generalised maculo-papular rash can develop. Most cases recover in three to five days. However, up to 10 per cent of cases experience arthritis, chronic joint pain and fatigue. Treatment is supportive.