The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is warning that it has recieved ten confirmed cases of locally acquired chikungunya virus infection on the French side Saint Martin.
This is the first time locally-acquired cases of chikungunya have been reported in the Caribbean, although there have been imported cases from other countries.
Four additional cases have been identified as probable cases, and 20 other persons are suspected of having the disease, according to the agency.
Laboratory test results are awaited and it is likely that the number of confirmed cases will increase.
Chikungunya is a viral disease, carried mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes a dengue-like sickness. Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with chikungunya than with dengue.
The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The majority of clinical signs and symptoms last three to 10 days, but joint pain may persist longer.
Severe cases requiring hospitalization are rare.
CARPHA said 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.
CARPHA is therefore urging the public to inspect their homes and yards weekly, and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites indoors and outdoors by keeping water drums and barrels tightly covered, and throwing out stagnant water from flower vases, old tyres, and other containers that might act as breeding sites.
An action pictogram to aid managing your environment can be downloaded from the CARPHA website (http://carpha.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/CARPHA-YARD-POSTER-2.pdf) and used as a checklist.