Nasty virus from Africa finds way to Caribbean

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — A nasty virus first detected in Africa that is spread to people by the bite of infected mosquitoes is being locally transmitted in the Americas for the first time on the tiny French Caribbean dependency of St. Martin, health officials said Tuesday.

Epidemiologists have so far confirmed about a dozen cases of locally acquired chikungunya virus in St. Martin, which shares a 34-square-mile island with the Dutch territory of St. Maarten.

The illness, found mainly in Africa and Asia, is usually not life-threatening. But there is no vaccine for it, and it can cause a debilitating sickness with fever, rash, fatigue and vomiting, and intense muscle and joint pain that can last for weeks in serious cases. It's commonly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue fever, a similar but more serious illness with a deadly hemorrhagic form.

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