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Chikungunya calls for responsible action for community protection

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Tue Sep 2, 2014

From all reports, a serious case of the chikungunya virus is a painful and debilitating experience for the person affected.

The first three cases of chikungunya in St Vincent and the Grenadines were confirmed in Bequia in April this year. Since then, the pace at which people have been coming down with the virus seems to be increasing exponentially, with cases having been identified in almost every district of the country.{{more}}

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health told SEARCHLIGHT that over 800 cases of the disease had been diagnosed clinically or from laboratory tests.

It is reasonable to assume that the majority of persons coming down with the virus did not seek medical attention when they observed symptoms. If one accepts this assumption, one gets a picture of how widespread the outbreak is here.

The acceleration in the spread of the disease coincided with the onset of the rainy season several weeks ago, as pools and puddles provide the perfect environment for the vector of the disease – the Aedes aegypti mosquito – to breed.

The public health department has been out fogging in the different communities and carrying out inspections, but it would seem as if the ministry’s limited resources – human and otherwise – are spread so thinly across our multi-island state that the effectiveness of these measures is limited.

This is why the community response and that of each citizen of our state is so important, for it is only with the cooperation of the public that the spread of this disease with the funny sounding name will be brought under control.

At present, there is no cure or vaccine for chikungunya, so given the debilitating nature of this disease, members of the public are called upon to act responsibly so that they, their loved ones and members of their community will be protected.

Chikungunya is fatal in only rare cases, but the very young or very old, people with compromised immune systems and those with chronic and underlying conditions are at additional risk.

Acting responsibly means that we should implement vector control measures at the individual and community levels, such as keeping water drums and tanks covered, getting rid of unused tires and other containers, and keeping the general surroundings clean. We should also avoid excessive exposure of our skin by wearing long sleeved tops, long trousers and skirts and use insect repellants to avoid mosquito bites.

The Center for Disease Control in the United States says symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, the most common symptoms being fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.

Most patients feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

There is no medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection or disease, however to decrease the symptoms, those stricken should get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, take medicines, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain.

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