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Expat Exchange - Chikungunya Disease in Jamaica
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Falmouth, Jamaica


Chikungunya Disease in Jamaica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: If you're a moving to Jamaica or recently arrived, it's important to know about Chikungunya Disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Chikungunya is sometimes misdiagnosed as Zika Virus. Unfortunately, many report long-term joint pain following the initial illness.

If you've recently moved to Jamaica or are planning to, it's essential to be aware of Chikungunya Disease, spread by mosquitoes. This illness is frequently confused with the Zika Virus, and many suffer from persistent joint pain after recovering from the initial symptoms.

Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne disease, has been a significant health concern in Jamaica since its first reported case in 2014. The virus, which causes severe joint pain and fever, has affected thousands of Jamaicans and continues to pose a threat due to the country's tropical climate, which is conducive to the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary vector of the disease. This article will delve into the nature of the Chikungunya virus, its prevalence in Jamaica, prevention methods, and its potential impact on different age groups and individuals with compromised immune systems.

What is Chikungunya Disease?

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus species. The name "Chikungunya" derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted," and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers due to the debilitating joint pain. Symptoms typically appear between 4 and 8 days after the mosquito bite and include high fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash. Most patients recover fully, but in some cases, joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Serious complications are rare but can include neurological, heart, and gastrointestinal complications.

Where is Chikungunya Most Prevalent in Jamaica?

Chikungunya virus was first reported in Jamaica in 2014 and has since spread across the island. The disease is more prevalent in densely populated areas and regions with stagnant water bodies, which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Kingston, the capital city, and other urban areas like Montego Bay and Spanish Town have reported high incidences of the disease. However, rural areas are not exempt, as the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found across the island.

How do Expats in Jamaica Prevent Mosquito Bites?

Preventing mosquito bites is the most effective way to avoid Chikungunya. Expats in Jamaica are advised to use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and ensure their accommodations are well-screened or air-conditioned. Mosquito nets are also recommended, especially for those sleeping during the day, when the Aedes mosquito is most active. It's also crucial to eliminate mosquito breeding sites by regularly emptying, cleaning or covering containers that can hold water, such as buckets, flower pots, or tires.

What if I get Chikungunya Virus in Jamaica?

If you suspect you have contracted Chikungunya while in Jamaica, it's important to seek medical attention immediately. There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for Chikungunya; treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including the joint pain using anti-pyretics, optimal analgesics, and fluids. Rest is also recommended. If you have recently visited Jamaica and develop symptoms after returning home, seek medical attention and inform your healthcare provider of your travel history.

Is Chikungunya Virus Contagious?

Chikungunya virus is not directly contagious from person to person. The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. However, a mosquito can pick up the virus from an infected person and then spread it to other people. Therefore, an infected person should avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes during the first week of illness to prevent further transmission of the virus.

Is Chikungunya Virus More Dangerous for Children, Elderly or Immune-Compromised?

While Chikungunya can affect individuals of all ages, the disease tends to be more severe in newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults (over 65 years), and people with underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. These individuals are more likely to develop severe complications and should seek medical attention immediately if they suspect they have contracted the virus. It's also important for these high-risk groups to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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Falmouth, Jamaica

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