CDC issues travel advisory due to confirmed cases of Chikungunya

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for U.S. persons traveling to the Caribbean on Wednesday after the first cases of mosquito-borne chikungunya viral infections were confirmed in St. Martin.

The World Health Organization recently reported 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of chikungunya infections on the French side of St. Martin in the Caribbean. While chikungunya infections have previously been reported in Africa, Europe, the Pacific and Asia, this is the first time the disease has been present in the Western Hemisphere with non-travelers.

Health organizations in St. Martin are continuing to study suspect cases of chikungunya, a disease that is spread by the same mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. These mosquitoes can be found throughout the Caribbean and in some parts of the U.S. Symptoms of a chikungunya infection include fever, joint pain, muscle aches, headache and rash.

Due to the high volume of U.S. travelers to the Caribbean and the presence of dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes, the CDC issued an advisory warning any U.S. persons planning to travel to the Caribbean of the threat of contracting chikungunya. The disease has spread around the island of St. Martin and because it is mosquito-borne, it may spread across the Caribbean to the U.S.

"Microbes know no boundaries, and the appearance of chikungunya virus in the Western hemisphere represents another threat to health security," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "CDC experts have predicted and prepared for its arrival for several years and there are surveillance systems in place to help us track it. To protect Americans, we have to support and maintain capacity to detect and respond to the emergence of new viruses."