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Travellers to the Caribbean warned about chikungunya

Latest Public Health England (PHE) annual data shows an increase in the viral illness chikungunya in the Caribbean and South America.

The majority of cases (88%) were acquired on trips to the Caribbean and South America, where a large outbreak, which started in December 2013 in the French Caribbean territory of St Martin, has now affected most of the countries and territories in the Caribbean and Americas.

Statistics have show a rise with 24 cases in 2013 to 295 cases in 2014 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Chikungunya is a travel-associated infection, and does not occur in the UK.

Dr Hilary Kirkbride, head of Travel and Migrant Health at Public Health England said: “Chikungunya is an unpleasant viral illness that can cause fever and joint pains, which in some patients may persist for a prolonged period. Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites particularly around dusk and dawn when day biting mosquitoes are most active, as there is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against chikungunya.

“Chikungunya is spread by mosquitos and is more usually found in parts of Asia and Africa but in recent years we have seen new areas of the world becoming affected, including the Caribbean, parts of America and some islands in the Pacific.”

Chikungunya fever is a viral illness with similar symptoms to dengue fever, although joint pains may be a more prominent feature. Most patients make a full recovery, but in some cases joint pain and arthritis may persist for several months, or even years.