Protect Yourself from Mosquito-borne Diseases

Many of you have heard about the progression of Chikungunya throughout the Caribbean with the most recent transmissions occurring in Central and South American countries as well as some imported cases in the US and other nations.  The CDC has been closely tracking Chikungunya as it moves through the Caribbean since the Aedes mosquitoes that transmit it are common in the Caribbean and the US (mainland and islands).  The Government of Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Harvey is confirming that Jamaica now has its first imported case of chikungunya.

“The Aedes aegypti is a day biting mosquito that will almost always be found in and around areas where people live, work and play. The mosquito breeds in water that settles around homes, schools, churches, workplaces and playgrounds. Persons are urged to search for and destroy mosquito breeding sites in and around their homes, workplaces and communities by getting rid of old tires and containers in which water can settle, punching holes in tins before disposing, and covering large drums, barrels and tanks holding water,” Dr. Harvey recently urged.

The bottom line:

  • Chikungunya is a dengue like illness that is rarely fatal
  • Symptoms of Chikungunya fever include high fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain mainly in the limbs and large joints and a rash. Although it does not often result in death, joint pains and stiffness can last for months and even years. It may become a source of chronic pain and disability resulting in the individual being unable to attend work or school.
  • Infants and the elderly are at greater risk for more severe disease. There are some diseases that may increase the risk for severe disease such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.
  • Chikungunya is carried by the same Aedes mosquitoes species that can carry dengue.
  • Unlike dengue, where many people have no symptoms when they are infected, the majority of those infected with chikungunya will have symptomatic disease.
  • Infections on clinical signs alone and chikungunya diagnostics are not widely available yet.
  • There is no vaccine currently available for chikungunya; there are no antivirals known that will treat chikungunya
  • Prevention of mosquito biting and control of mosquito populations is critical in diminishing the number of cases

 Recommendations:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding  around your homes. See the attached  Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) poster (PDF 1.1 MB)
  • Ensure that you use CDC approved repellants such as 20% DEET.  DEET in lower percentages is effective but needs to be applied more frequently in lower percentage doses. (See below)
  • Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are also effective but last only 1½ to two hours. Products based on citronella are not effective.
  • Check on the condition of screens throughout your home to diminish mosquitoes inside

Emergencies involving U.S. citizens can be reported by contacting the American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, located at 142 Old Hope Road in the Liguanea area of Kingston, telephone (876) 702-6450, after hours emergency line at (876) 702-6000, and e-mail at KingstonACS@state.gov.  The U.S. Consular Agency in Montego Bay is located at Whitter Village, Ironshore, telephone (876) 953-0620. The U.S. Consular Agency in the Cayman Islands is located at Cayman Centre, Unit B-1, 118 Dorcy Drive, telephone (345) 945-8173.