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Virus warning to Caribbean tourists

18 November 2014 11:53

Holidaymakers in the Caribbean are being warned to cover up

Holidaymakers in the Caribbean are being warned to cover up

The Caribbean is suffering an outbreak of a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease, leading to warnings being issued for tourists to cover up while visiting the resorts - here we tell you everything you need to know as well as offering some tips for preventing mozzie bites.

Some 25 nations in the Caribbean have reported instances of the chikungunya virus - which is transmitted through mosquito bites - since it first appeared on the World Health Organisation's radar back in December 2013.

The majority of people affected by the virus have visited either the Dominican Republic or Antigua and Barbuda, according to the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

So far, there have been more than 700,000 suspected cases - with more than 100 reported fatalities. Health officials are now advising tourists to cover their skin as much as possible when heading to the islands to enjoy winter sun.

The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 1,600 travellers returning to the US with chikungunya - while C anadian authorities said more than 200 returned with symptoms, and 37 British travellers have been affected by the agonising virus.

Victims are arriving at hospitals or surgeries on the Caribbean islands with chikungunya symptoms - including fever, headaches, rashes and muscle and joint pain.

Treatment at hospitals and surgeries while abroad can be expensive, so it is vital that holidaymakers take out the correct travel insurance or pre-existing medical travel insurance if they have an ongoing illness.

Dr Laith Yakob, an infectious disease ecologist with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said people should speak to their GP or a travel doctor before their trip if they have any concerns.


Chikungunya fact box

Chikungunya is an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. The mosquito that carries chikungunya virus bites primarily during the daytime, both indoors and outdoors, and often lives around buildings in urban areas. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. The only way to prevent chikungunya is to prevent mosquito bites. Preventing bites can be difficult, but it is important, as you can get sick after just one bite.

Tips for preventing mosquito bites

Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed. Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat items of clothing yourself. Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms. Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.