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New cases of chikungunya confirmed by St. Martin authorities

MONDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2013

MARIGOT–Ten more cases of chikungunya have been biologically confirmed with four more classed as “probable” and up to eighty more suspected according to Institut de Veille Sanitaire’s (INVS’) latest bulletin. Most of the cases reported to date have been in the Oyster Pond area.

The increase in cases since the December 6 announcement of the first two cases comes as authorities concede the spread of the virus will be “inevitable.”

However, awareness campaigns for the benefit of the public are in effect on both sides of the island and the regional health authority ARS held an awareness session in the French Quarter marketplace on Rue de Coralita on Saturday.

Stands were set up to give information on dengue and chikungunya with various experts, health professionals, epidemiologists and doctors on hand to assist. Flyers and T-shirts were distributed as well as the tiny golomine fish which eats mosquito larvae. The fish, which are placed in non-potable water cisterns, are one of the effective defences against dengue.

The Délégué Territorial for the ARS in St. Martin, Pascal Godefroy, was present as was Vice- President Guillaume Arnell and Préfet Philippe Chopin in support.

Arnell said controlling the spread of the new virus is not just a problem for authorities but is now “everybody’s problem,” alluding to the vital role the public has in helping to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds.

“The obligation is to control the progression of chikungunya, not least to prevent it spreading to other islands,” he said. “It started here so we have to contain it here. The way we do that is by a huge awareness campaign and the cooperation of the public in carrying out these simple measures at home and in the yard of throwing out stagnant water anywhere that you notice it: flower vases, tyres, rain gutters, car wrecks, containers, plants – anything that collects water.

“The people must protect themselves too – especially the elderly and young children – by installing mosquito screens, wearing appropriate long sleeve, long pants, and using insect repellents.”

Préfet Chopin said while both sides of the island are already cooperating in stemming the spread of dengue and chikungunya, a convention to this effect will be signed with the Dutch side government.

It is the first time chikungunya has been officially confirmed in the Caribbean, according to authorities. Symptoms are similar to dengue with the addition of joint pain. The sickness is transmitted by the same mosquito that spreads dengue, Aedes agypti, and can last from seven to 10 days.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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