Health Minister John Boyce today revealed that the number of confirmed chikungunya cases in Barbados now stood at 49, with another 200 suspected cases on record.

He however acknowledged that the record might not represent the true numbers because some persons were not seeking medical attention, choosing instead to treat themselves at home.

He added that the Ministry of Health was working towards making the reporting process easier and quicker for doctors by putting systems in place to allow them to provide the information electronically.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Joy St. John, explained that chikungunya was ???a new disease in a virgin population???, and because of this, it would be difficult to control an outbreak unless there was a concerted national effort.

She noted that at this point the surge in cases was not only affecting the general population but also staff within the Ministry of Health, with doctors, nurses and other health care practitioners among the casualties.

Dr. St. John revealed that the Ministry of Health now had notification of chikungunya cases in 10 parishes. She added that the testing protocol had been changed to focus primarily on high risk groups, represented by children under 15, adults over 60, and pregnant women.

She joined Minister Boyce in calling for Barbadians to do all in their power to protect themselves from being bitten by infected mosquitoes, including getting rid of breeding sites around their properties and spraying their homes to eliminate adult mosquitoes.

The Ministry of Health officials were speaking after a tour of the Medical Reception Station at the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), where they got a first-hand look at the medical facilities, some of which are utilised not only by BDF personnel, but also by members of the public.

These included the hyperbaric chamber, which is used to treat victims of diving accidents, burn patients and those with diabetic ulcers.

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