Barbadians travelling overseas are being advised by the Ministry of Health to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against contracting chikungunya.
The vector-borne illness which is spread by the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes has been detected in a number of Caribbean countries. As of January 21 this year, cases of chikungunya have been reported in French Saint Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barthelemy and the British Virgin Islands. There have been no reported cases in Barbados so far.
Chikungunya, is a virus similar to dengue fever. Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They may include a sudden high fever, headache, rash, nausea and muscle pain. However, stiffness and severe joint pain, especially in the wrists, knuckles or ankles are more often associated with the illness. Chikungunya fever may last from a few days to a few weeks and some infected patients have reported debilitating arthritic pain, persisting for weeks or months.
Health officials advise that travellers wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors or in areas prone to mosquitoes; use mosquito repellants, coils or other devices to fend off mosquitoes; where possible, set air-conditioners to a lower temperature at night; sleep under a bed net pre-treated with insect repellent; be aware of chikungunya symptoms; and report their hotel and travel history to their doctor if they become ill after returning home.
There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for chikungunya. Any treatment administered would be for the relief of symptoms and may include rest, fluids, and medication for fever and pain. Aspirin should be avoided.