CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Health officials are warning of an increase in the number of cases of chikungunya virus and that the “situation on the ground is believed to be much worse than the figures presented.”
Epidemiologist Neham Jn Baptiste said the island had so far recorded 20 confirmed cases and 120 suspected cases of the virus that is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito.
“The situation on the ground is believed to be much worse than the figures presented as according to information from the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“Some persons with chikungunya have opted to use home remedies like bush medicine, rather than reporting their condition to a doctor or health clinic,” he added.
He said that it is very important to know which areas are affected so as to provide strategic environmental control.
While the virus is more prevalent among women, Jn Baptiste said that pregnant women especially must be protected from contracting the virus that could be more harmful to them.
Chikungunya, a virus more commonly found in Africa and Asia, is transmitted by the same daytime-biting aides aegypti mosquito that causes the more deadly dengue fever, was first detected in the eastern Caribbean five months ago.
Since then, it has jumped from island to island, sending thousands of patients to the hospital with painful joints, pounding headaches and spiking fevers. Chikungunya is normally not deadly and symptoms begin to dissipate within a week.
Jn Baptiste said that with the onset of the rainy season, there is also a higher risk of people contracting dengue.
He warned that the circulation of chikungunya and dengue at the same time could pose a major public health threat.
The Pan-American Health Organization reports more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases in the Caribbean.