U.S. health officials have issued a travel advisory for the Caribbean island of St. Martin because of a mosquito-borne disease.
The painful tropical illness called chikungunya fever was discovered in the French part of St. Martin in October. The World Health Organization had confirmed 10 cases by press time. The Centers for Disease Control said it’s the first time the disease has been reported among non-travelers in the Western Hemisphere. Before the current outbreak in the Caribbean, the chikungunya virus was found only in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and southern Europe.
The mosquito-borne illness can cause fever, joint pains, a rash, muscle aches and headaches. Symptoms usually goes away after a few days, but sometimes the joint pain can last for weeks, even months.
The muscle and joint pain are infamous and give the disease its name. Chikungunya roughly translates to “that which bends up” in the African Makonde language, describing the stooped posture of a person infected with the virus.
There are no treatments or vaccines, but fatalities are rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. And once you’ve been infected, you’re likely to have lifelong immunity.
The only way to prevent it is to stay away from its source, the Aedes mosquitoes (which prefer warm, tropical climates) and the Asian tiger mosquito (which can tolerate more temperate environments and thrives as far north as Chicago).