September 2014 – SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – At least 16,000 patients have contracted the chikungunya virus in El Salvador, prompting health officials in the Central American country to step up the fight Monday to eliminate disease-carrying mosquitoes. “Of the 16,000 chikungunya cases, 11,000 are in the department of San Salvador,” where the capital is located, Health Minister Violeta Menjívar said during a press conference. Menjívar said the country remains on “national alert,” which was declared last June for both the chikungunya virus and dengue, both transmitted by mosquitoes. She said officials would “intensify the response,” including stepping up fumigation efforts and national awareness campaigns aimed at reminding residents to eliminate stagnant water. “We are calling for the unification of efforts by government agencies, municipalities and the Education Ministry [for a campaign] in schools,” the minister said. Chikungunya fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, and causes a sudden high fever, skin rashes, pounding headaches, nausea and muscle pain.
Last month, Costa Rican health officials asked for a preventive alert to be issued after 13 patients tested positive for chikungunya here. The number of chikungunya cases in Costa Rica is nowhere near El Salvador’s 16,000 cases, and all of the Costa Rican patients contracted the virus while traveling abroad. However, Costa Rican Health Ministry official Priscilla Herrera warned that “if the number of cases continues to increase [in Costa Rica], it will have a significant financial cost.” –Tico Times
Death toll reaches 113: At least 113 people have died in the Americas, with all the fatalities reported in the Caribbean region, after becoming infected with the Chikungunya virus, the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO, said, adding that it was not yet clear if these deaths were directly attributable to the virus. In its latest report, which includes figures as of Sept. 12, the PAHO confirmed 55 deaths linked to the virus in Martinique since last December, when the disease was first detected in the Americas. Forty-nine deaths were reported in Guadeloupe, six in the Dominican Republic and three in St. Martin, where the virus was first found in the Americas. Although all the victims were infected with the virus, health authorities said Chikungunya may not have been the main cause of death. The Puerto Rican Health Department is investigating whether or not two recent deaths were related to the virus, and officials plan to provide more details on the results of medical tests in the next few days.
A total of 644,686 suspected and 9,640 confirmed Chikungunya cases have been reported in the region as of Sept. 8, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, or CARPHA, said. Chikungunya’s symptoms include acute fever, followed by a longer period of joint pains in the extremities that may persist for years in some cases. The disease is transmitted to humans by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes like dengue fever and while no specific treatment is known, medications can be used to reduce symptoms. The regional organizations emphasized the importance of taking preventive measures to control the breeding locations of the mosquitoes that transmit the two viruses, especially at this time of year, the peak transmission season in the Caribbean due to increased rainfall. Some 850,000 people in the Americas have contracted dengue and 470 others have died from the virus in 2014, the PAHO said. EFE. –Fox News Latino
Epidemic declared in Virgin Islands: ST. THOMAS – While the V.I. Health Department stood up to public criticism of its mitigation plan for the spread of chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne virus, the department also declared that the territorial outbreak is officially an epidemic. In fact, it has been an epidemic since May. “As soon as we knew of the first case, it was an outbreak,” said the Health Department’s territorial epidemiologist, Dr. Esther Ellis. An outbreak, Ellis said, is when more cases of a health concern occur than is expected at any one time. An epidemic, on the other hand, is when a doubling of cases occurs in a period of three weeks or less, she said. The first confirmation of the virus in the U.S. Virgin Islands was May 20, according to health officials, who said that the person had traveled to Dominica, which reported confirmed cases prior. “It’s really the humans that move the virus,” Ellis said.
Currently, the DOH has counted 514 suspected cases on St. Thomas, with 41 confirmed or probable; 25 suspected cases on St. Croix, with three confirmed or probable; and 13 suspected are on St. John, with two confirmed or probable. In the Americas altogether, 706,093 cases were suspected and 8,651 were confirmed as of Sept. 12, according to the Pan American Health Organization. In total, 113 deaths have resulted from the disease, according to the organization. –VID