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Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak in St. Martin

Friday, December 20, 2013

Baltimore, MD: St. Martin, in the Caribbean, is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to experience a Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak. Global Virus Network (GVN) member of the Sweden-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence and CHIKV specialist, Andres Merits, PhD says once we know the genotype, we will have a better estimate of the potential of the virus to spread.  Dr. Merits, Professor of Applied Virology, Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Estonia, also noted, “Clinicians in the region of the Caribbean must be on high alert as CHIKV is often mistaken for Dengue fever or even malaria.  Once we know the genotype, we will know more about the efficiency of mosquito transmission, and public health officials can begin to take prevention measures to contain the outbreak.”  Such measures include aggressive mosquito control techniques, whereas travel restrictions are more likely to be relatively inefficient.  Dr. Merits said, “I am reasonably optimistic this outbreak will not be widespread.  However, this new outbreak is a stark reminder of why medical virologists worldwide must be prepared to share information and expertise quickly, and with the goal of safeguarding the health of people everywhere.  We do not yet have drug therapies for CHIKV, let alone a vaccine, but scientists are close and can develop these cures if governments and the public and private sector support them.”