Left to right: Dr Johnson, Dr Ricketts James (top right) and Scotland
Left to right: Dr Johnson, Dr Ricketts James (top right) and Scotland

Hey, we have new reasons to hate those blood suckers!

Officials of the Ministry of Health revealed today that those blood sucking mosquitoes, especially the Aedes aegypti, is responsible for Dominica's first case of Chikungunya fever.

"We can confirm now as we speakā€¦that we have the first locally occurring case of Chikungunya in Dominica," said Dr. David Johnson, Dominica's Chief Medical Officer at a press conference this afternoon. "It's a female with a travel history from St Marten".

Chikungunya is a viral illness that resembles dengue fever and it is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. The fever is characterized by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain (arthritis), as well as fever and rash. The main difference between dengue and Chikungunya is joint pain.

Chikungunya virus was first isolated from the blood of a febrile patient in Tanzania in 1953. Since then it has caused several human epidemics in many areas of Africa and Asia and most recently in limited areas of Europe. At the moment it has been discovered in the French Islands and in St. Marten among other countries of the Caribbean. However, it is not a life threatening disease. But the widespread occurrence of the fever causes substantial morbidity and economic loss.

"Most cases of Chikungunya is going to be mild and the patient will recover without any major problems," Dr. Paul Ricketts, Dominica's Epidemiologist. "However, occasionally some patients can have a chronic form of the disease which involves continuing joint pains and listlessness that can go on for several months."

Since the person infected with the Chikungunya virus lives in Good Hope the Environment Health Department has mounted a campaign against the Aedes aegypti mosquito there starting with fogging in the village tonight and on-going house inspection to destroy the breeding places of the mosquito.

Chief Environmental Health Officer, Joseph Scotland, said another mosquito species named Aedes albopictus is found to be a carrier of the disease but that mosquito has not been found in Dominica.

Symptoms of Chikungunya virus infection is characterized by fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain.

The best precaution for Chikungunya is the prevention of mosquito bites by using insect repellent and the wearing of long sleeves and pants.

Preventative measures also include getting rid of mosquito sources in and around the house by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels.

Though Ministry of Health officials are concerned about the possible spread, Dr. Johnson said at the moment there is no need for persons to panic or to be scared.

"There is no need for any alarm at this time," he said. "The person who was affected with the Chikungunya disease has recovered and is at home doing well. We want to establish whether there are any cases of Chikungunya in Dominica or whether the infected case has been transmitting the disease in Dominica."