CASTRIES: St. Lucia health authorities have reported that the mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya, has spiraled out of control, affecting persons in all 17 constituencies on the island.
Surveillance Officer within the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Michelle Francois, confirmed that almost all communities in St Lucia have been affected.
Though not stating the specific number of individuals confirmed to have the virus in St. Lucia, Dr. Francois said there are more cases on the ground than those that have reached hospitals and community health centres.
She said that the Caribbean Public Health Agency has mandated the ministry to test only persons presenting Chikungunya symptoms who have been hospitalized, are pregnant and/or are very sick.
“Although we are not testing everyone…the confirmed numbers that we are seeing will always be less than what is on the ground.”
Francois said the ministry anticipated the spike in the spread of Chikungunya simply because the local population does not have immunity to the virus.
“So (based on) the mere fact that the public did not have immunity, we did expect the numbers to rise as more and more people get exposed to the virus and with our high indices of mosquitoes,” she said.
Unlike Dengue, Chikungunya can be contracted by an individual only once, since it gives lifelong immunity.
Francois said the ministry has been trying to keep the spread under control through various measures, including public awareness programs.
As of June 20, The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported there are 183,761 suspected cases of Chikungunya in the Caribbean.