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Epidemiological update: autochthonous cases of chikungunya fever in the Caribbean region

20 Jan 2014

​An outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean region was reported from the French part of the island of Saint Martin on 5 December 2013. It is the first time that autochthonous transmission of the virus has been documented in the Americas.

ECDC's risk assessment of the outbreak on 11 December concluded that the risk of the disease spreading to other islands in the Caribbean region was high. Since then, new chikungunya cases have been reported from several islands in the Caribbean with a new affected island in the British Virgin Islands last week. As of 20 January 2014, the following number of cases has been reported:

  • 294 probable or confirmed cases in Saint Martin (FR);
  • Two confirmed cases in Saint Martin (NL);
  • 127 probable or confirmed cases in Martinique;
  • 31 probable or confirmed cases in Saint Barthélemy;
  • 27 probable or confirmed cases including one imported case from Saint Martin in Guadeloupe;
  • One confirmed case imported from Martinique in French Guiana;
  • Three confirmed cases on Jost Van Dyke islands in the British Virgin Islands.

The chikungunya transmission was detected during an on-going dengue outbreak in the Caribbean. Both arboviruses are transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito species. The naïve population, the presence of an effective vector in the region and the movement of people in and between islands are factors that make it likely that the outbreak will continue to spread geographically and increase in numbers.

The conclusions and recommendations of ECDC's rapid risk assessment of 11 December 2013 remain valid. Clinicians and travel medicine clinics should remain vigilant regarding imported dengue and chikungunya cases from the Caribbean.

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