St Lucia GIS
Health officials have announced an island-wide increase in the number of people who have contracted chikungunya, mainly due to the public not having immunity to the virus.
Dr. Michelle Francois, Surveillance Officer in the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, said that an increase in the number of chikungunya cases in Saint Lucia was expected.
“We anticipated this,” Dr. Francois said. “We knew that it was a new disease in Saint Lucia and that most of our public were not immune to it. The one thing that differentiates chikungunya from dengue, however, is that it confers life-long immunity.”
The World Health Organization states that chikungunya is rarely fatal. Its symptoms are generally self-limiting and typically last for 2–3 days. Anyone who contracts and recovers from chikungunya infection is immune for life.
Health officials have been urging the public to minimize the risk of exposure to vector-borne diseases. To this end, the Health Ministry has embarked on several education and awareness campaigns—the latest being Vector Awareness Week, which ends Friday.
Dr. Francois said there is measured progress with information dissemination, but is confident that as long as citizens exercise due diligence, the spread of the virus will be slowed.
“We can maintain the community outreach programs and the clean-up campaigns only for so long,” she said, “but if each individual does their part, by throwing out stagnant water and picking up the empty containers around their households and within their communities, there would really be no need for us to move masses in that manner. It all begins with the individual and knowing that it is your responsibility to protect yourself and your family.”
Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The word originates from a verb in the Kimakonde language meaning “to become contorted,” and refers to the stooped appearance of those suffering with joint pain. Chikungunya can be detected using serological tests.