Chikungunya cases continue to climb

After chikungunya cases more than doubled last week, health officials advised Wednesday that the number of confirmed cases in Cayman has now risen to 20.

According to the latest release from Cayman’s public health department, four cases of the mosquito-borne virus were transmitted locally and 16 were contracted overseas.

The four locally acquired cases occurred in Newlands in Bodden Town, Eastern Avenue in George Town, Prospect Drive in George Town, and the Boatswain Bay area of West Bay.

Of the test results sent to Caribbean Public Health Agency last week, two people tested positive for the debilitating virus. The patients had a travel history to Jamaica, and were residents of Bodden Town. The onset of their symptoms took place between Sept. 25 and 27. So far, imported cases include: two from the Dominican Republic, three from Guyana, 10 from Jamaica and one to St. Lucia, public health officials said.

The spike in chikungunya cases has prompted the Mosquito Research Control Unit to conduct more fogging treatments to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the virus, according to MRCU Director William Petrie.

“We immediately launched into an all-out attack against Aedes aegypti mosquitoes,” said Mr. Petrie.

In an effort to contain the virus, the MRCU started carrying out additional mosquito fogging treatments last week. This includes eight treatments per day in George Town, from 7.30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and then from 5.15 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mr. Petrie said four of the unit’s fogging trucks, traditionally used to deal with swamp mosquitoes, were converted to target Aedes aegypti for this new effort. “We are fogging in George Town with those trucks, it is very very intense,” he said.

“This mosquito is different from all others, and it is active during the day, not at night, so that’s why we’ve altered the spraying time,” he added.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is most commonly found around households, and breeds in standing water, often left in old tires, containers and plant holders that can be found near homes.

To target other areas of the island, ranging from West Bay to Pease Bay, MRCU staff are also carrying out daily low-flying aerial operations where pellets of insecticide are dropped on land to kill mosquito larvae.

Mr. Petrie said the MRCU planned to keep “this intensified program of operations going indefinitely while we monitor the outbreak in Jamaica.”

According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s latest update, 35 cases of chikungunya have been confirmed in Jamaica.

Twenty new potential chikungunya cases in Cayman were also placed under investigation during the week of Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.

Since June 25, when the virus was first reported, health officials have investigated 76 cases of chikungunya in the Cayman Islands.

“I am pleading with the public to practice protective measures against mosquito bites,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said. “These include using mosquito repellent with DEET on the skin, and wearing long sleeve pants and shirts when outside during times that mosquitoes bite, whether in the Cayman Islands or on travels.”

Health officials are also planning to distribute chikungunya leaflets to any travelers to Jamaica, according to Dr. Kumar.

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