Share This Page

CDC issues travel health advisory for St. Martin

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 5:06 p.m.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Health authorities have issued a travel advisory for the French Caribbean dependency of St. Martin because of a mosquito-borne viral disease that is apparently being spread at the start of the winter tourist season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday it is closely following reports of the chikungunya virus among residents of the French side of a tiny island in the northeast Caribbean marketed as the “The Friendly Island.” It's the first time the disease typically found in Africa and Asia has been reported in the Western Hemisphere among people who have not traveled recently, suggesting that the virus is being carried by infected island mosquitoes.

“Microbes know no boundaries, and the appearance of the chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere represents another threat to health security,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.

The World Health Organization has reported 10 confirmed cases in tourism-dependent St. Martin, which splits the island with the Dutch constituent country of St. Maarten. The disease's spread to other Caribbean islands, and to surrounding mainland areas, is possible, the center said in its advisory for U.S. residents traveling to the French territory.

The virus can cause fever, joint pains, a rash, headaches and muscle and joint pain that can be debilitating and persist for several weeks in severe cases. Because it's spread by infected mosquitoes, travelers to St. Martin are advised to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and using air conditioning and window and door screens to keep the bugs out.

There is no vaccine, but the virus is rarely fatal.

Silviane John, director of the St. Martin Tourist Office, said both sides of the island are cooperating closely to reduce mosquito breeding sites and increase public awareness about the importance of dumping out stagnant water. Mosquito fogging trucks are frequently seen on the streets, she said.

"We haven't heard of any cancellations from hotels or airlines so it is a wait-and-see game,” John said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.