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Committee Monitoring Chikungunya

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The Ministry of Health remains on high alert for the Chikungunya virus, with a committee monitoring the situation.

Speaking at a recent post-Sectoral debate press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Ferguson, informed that the committee, headed by Director, Emergency, Disaster Management and Special Services, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, meets weekly to discuss that and other matters.

Dr. Fergsuon said that while the virus has not been detected in Jamaica, given international travel and trade, it is likely that it will be introduced into the island.

He is therefore appealing to Jamaicans to take precautions against its spread, such as destroying mosquito breeding sites in and around the home and places of business, worship and schools, by eliminating areas where water can settle.

“Keep water containers tightly covered, fill old tyres with dirt, keep drums and water tanks covered, and punch holes in cans before disposing of them,” he urged.

Dr. Ferguson noted that although Chikungunya does not often result in death, joint pains and stiffness can last for months and even years.

“It may become a source of chronic pain and disability resulting in the individual being unable to attend work or school,” he said.

The Chikungunya virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever.

Symptoms include high fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and a rash. Infants and the elderly are at greater risk for more severe symptoms of the disease and there is no specific treatment or vaccine for Chikungunya.

The mosquito-borne illness was first detected in December 2013 in St. Martin, and has since spread to Antigua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Chikungunya continues to spread in the region of the Americas and is now in 17 countries, with over 130,000 suspected cases and 4,500 confirmations.

By Chris Patterson

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