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Fuad urges citizens to be ready for CHIKV

Health Minister: Epidemic coming down Caribbean island chain

By Michelle Loubon

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan is appealing to citizens to clean up their immediate surroundings since the chikungunya epidemic is “coming down the chain of islands”. Antigua and the Dominican Republic have been grappling with the virus.

Khan also said citizens will be responsible for allowing it to enter if they failed to get proactive and keep a clean scene. Chikungunya, commonly called CHIKV, is a viral disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that has reached epidemic proportions in the Caribbean. 

To date, about 11 French, English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean coun­tries have reported chikungun­ya’s presence. 

A report in the Miami Herald said so far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has documented more than 4,000 confirmed cases in the Caribbean, with the French territories hardest hit, and more than 31,000 suspected cases. 

Khan also said the Ministry of Health was even “keeping an eye on the ebola”. Ebola is a deadly virus origi­na­ting in parts of Africa. It is classified as a haemorrhagic fever and may be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood and secretions. 

“Ebola has not reached here yet. It has been contained in Africa so far,” said Khan. 

 Via a telephone interview yesterday, Khan said: “Chikungunya has come to Antigua and Dominican Republic. It is coming down the chain of islands. There are cases right now. If people allow it, it will come. It can only come in if somebody comes in with the virus. We have people on surveillance to ensure it does not enter that way.”

Khan added: “I am saying to people, you have to clean the surroundings, like the vessels around the house. It will not disappear by itself. So we have to watch out for ourselves. Sooner or later, if we don’t watch what we are doing, then we will run the risk. The elderly ones, especially, will end up with pneumonia or meningitis. If you don’t throw away water, then you run the risk.” 

Commenting on the Caribbean epidemic, Khan said: “If you had none before and you have it now, it is considered an epidemic. And once it is spreading,” said Khan. 

To date, a Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) release said cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean region have been confirmed in Anguilla, Aruba, Dominica, British Virgin Islands, French Guiana, Martinique, St Barthelemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten (Dutch) and St Martin (French). 

According to Carpha executive di­rector Dr James Hospedales, “Although it was not here yet, we have to stay on alert. We don’t want to have to deal with it. So cover up the water drums. We don’t want to make it too welcome.” 


Symptoms 

• Usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by a mosquito. 

• Most common are fever and joint pains, often in the hands and feet 

• Others include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. 


Prevention

• Avoiding mosquito bites will help prevent further spread of the virus 

• Securely cover domestic water storage containers such as buckets, barrels and drums 

• Properly discard old tyres and containers that collect water, e.g., bottles and cans 

• Cover and seal tanks, soakaways and cisterns 

• Get rid of all breeding places of the Aedes aegypti mosquito like vases, flower pots and saucers, discarded toys, bottles, bottle pieces on top of walls/brick holes, roof guttering, wading/swimming pools, garden containers and tools. 


Reduce mosquito exposure 

• Use mosquito repellents containing picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or IR 3535 on exposed skin 

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

• Use air-conditioning or window and door screens 

• Sleep under mosquito nets and/or use mosquito coils. 

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