Chikungunya virus spreads from Caribbean to C. America

The mosquito-born chikungunya virus is spreading into Central America, health authorities there say, after outbreaks in several Caribbean nations.

The virus—rarely fatal, but nevertheless serious—sparks high fevers and severe joint aches, as well as headaches, nausea and extreme fatigue.

"We are facing a new illness in the country, but we are working to fight it," said El Salvador Health Minister Violeta Menjivar, whose country has reported 1,200 cases so far.

In Panama, two cases have been detected.

It is not yet clear how the virus spread to El Salvador, and its appearance both there and Panama—two countries with no common border—has raised fears elsewhere in Central America, especially as the rainy season, most favorable for mosquitoes, is only beginning.

Efforts are already under way to combat the spread of the virus—including systematic spraying against mosquitoes in El Salvador.

But some countries, including Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are resigned to its eventual emergence, despite increases in border checks aimed at stopping any infected people from crossing.

"We can't stop the chikungunya virus from getting here," Costa Rican health official Roberto Castro said.

"It's not possible to put a mosquito net over the whole country, and many people travel between Costa Rica and the Caribbean."

In Guatemala, the health ministry has raised a preventative alert while suspected cases are analyzed, and Honduras is forming teams to treat the cases it predicts will appear.

In the Caribbean, 16 countries have seen cases since the beginning of June, according to Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma, and the World Health Organization counts 4,500 confirmed cases since the virus first appeared in December 2013.

The is carried by mosquitoes—most commonly the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are also responsible for dengue fever.

There is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya, which has infected millions of people in Africa and Asia since the disease was first recorded in 1952.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Guyana has first cases of virus new to region

May 28, 2014

At least two people have been sickened by the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus in Guyana in the first locally transmitted cases in the South American country, the health minister said Wednesday.

Cuba confirms first six cases of chikungunya virus

Jun 18, 2014

Cuban health authorities on Wednesday said they detected 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 ...

Recommended for you

Meningitis diagnosis prompted W.Va. clinic probe

18 hours ago

A health official says an investigation that found syringes were being reused at a West Virginia pain management clinic was triggered by patient who developed bacterial meningitis.

California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

22 hours ago

A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.

User comments