Photo: Chikungunya virus
One of the Caribbean’s leading health officials has cautioned tourism stakeholders in the region not to turn a blind eye to the spread of the Chikungunya virus.
Though not usually lethal, the disease has become a major source of concern, Dr. James Hospedales, executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency, said.
“The players in the tourism industry need to be concerned and we have been working with CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organization) on some of the communications messages, because you have to be truthful and honest in informing the population, but on the other hand you can’t cause alarm and panic,” he said.
“One of the things is that it’s not only the population that might fall ill, but actually your workers in the workforce, and that’s what’s happening now,” Hospedales said.
“For instance, we’ve been getting reports in some countries. You’re on a day-by-day basis (asking) who is sick today? So how can you work? That includes your nurses, doctors, tourism workers, everyone,” he added.
Carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the Chikungunya virus has been spreading rapidly in the Caribbean since late last year. Dozens of cases have been reported across the region and health officials are predicting accelerated transmission as hurricane season begins.
Hospedales said no part of the region has been spared.
“Chikungunya is a new virus to the region. It came in December last year and as of last week, we have reports from 18 jurisdictions including all the language areas - English-speaking, French, Dutch and Spanish islands,” he said.
“The fact that this is coming and is spreading is an indication that our vector control, our mosquito control, is not what it needs to be and that’s not only the responsibility of government and spraying, but it’s the responsibility of individual householders,” Hospedales said.
Chikungunya is not usually deadly, but causes severe headaches and joint pain, rash and fever. The Aedes aegypti mosquito also transmits dengue fever, which can be lethal.