The Chikungunya mosquito-borne virus, which has been spreading rapidly throughout the Caribbean in the last five months, has surfaced in Guyana and health officials say they have since been closely monitoring patients while increasing preventative measures.
“So far Guyana has been spared the brunt of this invasion but now we have discovered the first two cases. One is a four year old child and a 40 year old male in Berbice and there is a team sent to Berbice to fog out the area for the next week,” said Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran yesterday at a press briefing.
He said the ministry was monitoring the virus since it was first detected in the Caribbean.
Chikungunya has been raising alarm in the Caribbean since it was first detected in the eastern Caribbean late last year. The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes severe joint pains, headaches, spiking fevers, muscle pains and vomiting. It mimics cases of dengue fever.
The ministry had increased its vigilance at airports as a preventative measure. Ramsaran also said the ministry has increased fogging exercises and upped public awareness across the country. However, he said recently they had received information from health officials in Berbice of signs of the virus.
“Chikungunya has been licking up the Caribbean for some time and we have been alert,” he said.
Eight-four suspected cases were identified and were being monitored by the ministry, said the Chief Medical Officer Dr Shamdeo Persaud. He said 30 patients were tested and the report was sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency. Those samples were returned on Saturday and two patients were positive.
“We are asking people who are experiencing these symptoms to also test for dengue because the symptoms are similar,” he said.
He warned the public to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites indoors and outdoors, keep water drums and barrels tightly covered and dispose of stagnant water from flower vases, old tyres, and other containers that might act as breeding sites. He also cautioned people to use mosquito nets and ensure waterways and drains are not blocked with debris and are free flowing.
The virus was discovered in Cumberland and Canje Berbice. “We are urging the public to use their public health practitioners and support the fogging teams by covering their waters and foods during the fogging exercises,” said Ramsaran.
Recently, the Pan-American Health Organization reported more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases in the Caribbean.
Reports also surfaced that there were cases of several deaths. The World Health Organization has so far confirmed one death in St. Martin.
In February, the numbers were up to 1,400 cases and have since risen tremendously. There were traces of the virus in Anguilla, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, Saint Maarten, Haiti, and St. Martin. It is estimated that over 5,500 Haitians were stricken by the virus.
The symptoms surface four to seven days after infection by the mosquito and dissipate within a week. Health officials have reported that the virus is not deadly however there is no vaccine or cure for it.