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

21 Feb 2014
Epidemiological update: autochthonous cases of chikungunya fever in the Caribbean region and South America

​An outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean region was reported from the French part of the island of Saint Martin on 6 December 2013. It is the first time that autochthonous transmission of the virus has been documented in the Americas.

An ECDC risk assessment of the outbreak published on 12 December 2013 concluded that the risk of the disease spreading to other islands in the Caribbean region was high. Since then, autochthonous transmission of chikungunya has been reported from several islands in the Caribbean and recently for the first time in South America (French Guiana).

As of 21 February 2014, more than 5 900 suspected cases have been reported in the following locations:

Caribbean:

 
  • Saint Martin (FR): 1 780 suspect cases
  • Sint Maarten (NL): 65 confirmed cases
  • Saint Barthélemy: 350 suspect cases
  • Martinique: 3 030 suspect cases
  • Guadeloupe: 1 380 suspect cases
  • British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke islands: 5 confirmed cases;
  • Dominica: 45 confirmed cases including one imported case
  • Anguilla: 5 confirmed cases including one imported case;
  • Island Aruba: one confirmed imported case
  • Saint Kitts & Nevis: one confirmed case
 

South America:

 
  • French Guiana: 7 confirmed/probable cases including 2 autochthonous cases and 5 imported cases.


This overview indicates that the chikungunya outbreak in the Caribbean is still ongoing and reaching now South America.

The chikungunya transmission was detected during a concomitant 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 and territories are factors that make it likely that the outbreak will continue to spread geographically and increase in numbers. 
 
The conclusions and recommendations of the rapid risk assessment published on 12 December 2013 remain valid.

Clinicians and travel medicine clinics should remain vigilant regarding imported dengue and chikungunya cases from the Caribbean and French Guiana.
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