ST. MARTIN (CBSMiami) – A debilitating virus first detected in Africa has spread to the Western Hemisphere, specifically the Caribbean island of St. Martin.
The virus, Chikungunya, has been confirmed by epidemiologists in about a dozen people in St. Martin, but experts believe there are dozens more cases on the tiny island nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory on the disease Tuesday to doctors in the United States.
Chikungunya causes a debilitating sickness including fever, rash, fatigue, and vomiting along with intense muscle and joint pain. The symptoms can last for weeks in serious cases and leaves many patients writhing in pain for days.
The World Health Organization said most patients will recover fully from the disease, but the joint pain may persist for months or years in some cases. There is no treatment for the actual disease or vaccine, doctors instead treat the symptoms until they ease.
According to the CDC, they have been preparing for the disease’s arrival in the United States for several years and have surveillance systems in place to monitor the progress of the disease.
Chikungunya has spread from Africa to the Indian Ocean region, Asia, and Europe for the last few years. It’s typically transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito which also transmits dengue fever, which has appeared several times in South Florida.
The name Chikungunya means “that which bends up” in the Makonde language spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique. The name references patients who typically end up