|EDITORIAL — Prepare for chikungunya|
|Wednesday, 22 January 2014 12:29|
The Virgin Islands should act now to prepare for the likely spread of the chikungunya virus, which was reported in the territory last week.
The mosquito-borne illness, which was confirmed in three Jost Van Dyke residents, was first diagnosed in the Western Hemisphere last month in St. Martin.
Since then, it has spread fairly rapidly: There have been more than 200 cases reported on that island, and others in St. Barthélemy, Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.
Though the virus is very rarely fatal, it is serious. Symptoms, which are similar to those caused by dengue, include high fever; severe pain in the joints and muscles; headache; nausea; and rash.
Because there is no vaccination or cure for chikungunya, which first appeared in Tanzania in 1952, prevention means reducing the spread of the carrier, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
To that end, the government rightly has stepped up fogging and bush-trimming initiatives. All residents should join the effort by cleaning their yards and clearing their property of standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
Residents also should do what they can to protect themselves from mosquito bites, and heed health officials’ advice to install mosquito nets on cribs to safeguard infants, who are particularly vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the territory’s tourism industry should have a plan of action.
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for tourists visiting the region. Though the advisory is the CDC’s lowest level — a “watch” advising travellers to “practice usual precautions” — the tourism industry should be prepared for potential negative effects.
In part, this will mean ensuring that potential visitors have the facts about the virus and don’t panic for lack of understanding.
Early action, education and Caribbean-wide collaboration are the keys to properly tackling the threats posed by chikungunya.