CDC issues travel health advisory for St. Martin

by David Mcfadden

U.S. health authorities have issued a travel advisory for the French Caribbean dependency of St. Martin because of a mosquito-borne viral disease that is apparently being spread locally at the start of the winter tourist season.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it is closely following reports of the among residents of the French side of a tiny island in the northeast Caribbean marketed as the "The Friendly Island." It's the first time the disease typically found in Africa and Asia has been reported in the Western Hemisphere among people who have not traveled recently, suggesting that the virus is now being carried by infected island mosquitoes.

"Microbes know no boundaries, and the appearance of the chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere represents another threat to health security," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.

The World Health Organization has reported 10 confirmed cases in tourism-dependent St. Martin, which splits the island with the Dutch constituent country of St. Maarten. The disease's further spread to other Caribbean islands, and to surrounding mainland areas, is possible, the center said in its advisory for U.S. residents traveling to the French territory.

The virus can cause fever, joint pains, a rash, headaches and muscle and joint pain that can be debilitating and persist for several weeks in severe cases. Because it's spread by infected mosquitoes, travelers to St. Martin are advised to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and using air conditioning and window and door screens to keep the bugs out.

There is no vaccine, but the virus is rarely fatal.

Silviane John, director of the St. Martin Tourist Office, said both sides of the island are cooperating closely to reduce mosquito breeding sites and increase public awareness about the importance of dumping out stagnant water. Mosquito fogging trucks are frequently seen on the streets, she said.

"It's a concern for us right now, for sure. We haven't heard of any cancellations from hotels or airlines so it is a wait-and-see game," John said from St. Martin, where many of the visitors are French as well as Americans or Canadians escaping from the northern cold.

St. Martin's government was drafting a letter to airlines letting them know how they are battling the spread of the , John said.

The island is already battling an outbreak of dengue fever commonly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads chikungunya.

The CDC is advising U.S. travelers returning from the Caribbean to seek out medical care if they experience chikungunya symptoms. It also says health care providers should be on the alert.

More information: CDC: www.cdc.gov/chikungunya

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists: Mosquito virus spreads to Americas

Dec 17, 2013

A nasty virus first detected in Africa that is spread to people by the bite of infected mosquitoes is being locally transmitted in the Americas for the first time on the tiny French Caribbean dependency of St. Martin, health ...

WHO sees first chikungunya cases in western hemisphere

Dec 10, 2013

Cases of chikungunya have occurred on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, marking the first time the mosquito-borne disease has spread in the western hemisphere, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone reaches final day of Ebola lockdown

2 hours ago

Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone's capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to ...

Sierra Leone faces criticism over Ebola shutdown

Sep 20, 2014

Sierra Leone began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on Saturday amid criticism that the action was a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

Sep 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital resembled a ghost town on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic.

User comments