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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Travel Alert: Chikungunya in Saint Martin (Caribbean)

On December 12, 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 10 cases of chikungunya that have been identified in people who live on the French side of St. Martin in the Caribbean. Laboratory testing is being carried out to confirm other possible cases. This is the first time that local transmission of chikungunya has been reported in the Americas. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with chikungunya and are spreading it to people.
Chikungunya is an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
Travelers who go to St. Martin in the Caribbean are at risk of getting chikungunya. In addition, travelers to Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific also are at risk, as the virus is spread in many of these areas. The mosquito that carries chikungunya virus can bite during the day and night, both indoors and outdoors, and often lives around buildings in urban areas.
There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.
Prevent mosquito bites:
Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed. Use repellent with higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If you feel sick and think you may have chikungunya:
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
Tell them about your travel.
For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad and a list of International Joint Commission-accredited facilities.
Get lots of rest, and drink plenty of liquids.
Avoid spreading the disease by preventing more mosquito bites.

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