There have been no cases of chikungunya detected in Barbados although at least 10 cases have been confirmed in the region.
But the Ministry of Health is assuring that it has the capability to respond efficiently if the virus – which is similar to dengue – reaches these shores.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) released a report on December 13, stating that 10 confirmed cases, four probable cases and 20 suspected cases of the chikungunya virus infection had been identified in the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
The Ministry of Health emphasises that Barbados has a strong environmental health system in place which is staffed by health personnel who are trained to identify “and appropriately handle vector borne diseases such as chikungunya”.
Additionally, there is an epidemiological surveillance system in place with a team of health personnel who collect and analyse data, as well as planned responses to the various infectious diseases presenting at public health care facilities on a weekly basis.
Local health officials were also involved in the fashioning of a Preparedness and Response Plan for Chikungunya Virus in the Caribbean Sub-region during training in Kingston, Jamaica, last year. Subsequently, a workshop was held in Barbados in September 2012 for the training of more local health personnel.
Chikungunya is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as well as the Aedes albopictus mosquito. The symptoms are similar to dengue fever and 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 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. Haemorrhagic complications are not associated with chikungunya.
There is no vaccine for chikungunya. Treatment is symptomatic and may include rest, fluids, and medication for fever and pain. Aspirin should be avoided.
The Ministry will remain in communication with CARPHA as well as the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/ WHO) and any other key regional and international stakeholders in order to ensure a timely and effective public health response, when and if necessary.
In the meantime, health authorities advise members of the public to continue to inspect their surroundings to search out and destroy mosquitoes on their properties. They can be guided by a checklist which has been mailed to households or they may download it from the Ministry’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/moh.barbados.
Persons may also protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing the appropriate clothing and by using insect repellents. Mosquito screens and nets are also helpful in the home.