Global Response to Chikungunya Virus

July 25, 2014 

by Christy Craig

As new cases of Chikungunya virus continue to be reported, NPHIs around the world are addressing the disease as a global health threat. The first case of Chikungunya virus was reported in Tanzania in 1952. The vector-borne disease, with symptoms of fever and severe joint pain, is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Since the 1950s, Chikungunya has continued to spread throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia, and most recently into the Americas. In the past year, over 300,000 cases have been confirmed, with the majority of cases in the Caribbean islands. The disease’s continued international incidence –and reports of imported cases in many countries – reflects the global nature of public health challenges today. Because no vaccine to prevent, nor medication to treat Chikungunya exists, prevention of mosquito bites by infected mosquitos is the best method of preventing the disease.

Joining in the global disease response, IANPHI members in the Americas have risen to the new challenge of increasing prevalence of Chikungunya virus in their region. In June, Peru’s INS confirmed the first two cases of Chikungunya in Peru; both were imported cases. Dr. Cesar Cabezas, director of INS Peru, made recommendations to prevent mosquito bites which cause Chikungunya, and urged Peruvians to remove all standing water from homes, as these can serve as breeding sites for the mosquitos carrying the virus.

Chikungunya poster

In El Salvador, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance has published technical guidelines for the prevention of Chikungunya, and has also developed health promotion tools to spread awareness of the disease, including informative posters and videos.

The Unites States CDC has carefully tracked the epidemiology and geographic distribution of the disease. As of July 2014, nearly 500 cases had been reported in the U.S., with the first locally acquired case reported in Florida earlier this month. The CDC recommends using insect repellent, using air conditioning or window screens, and wearing long sleeves and pants (when possible) to prevent mosquito bites which could transmit Chikungunya.

Beyond the Americas, other national public health institutes around the world continue in their commitment to addressing Chikungunya as a global health threat. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases has announced that it will be joining the Global Virus Network (GVN) Chikungunya Task Force, a group comprised of top virologists from 9 countries, and Public Health England has published a summer travel health guide, to inform travelers about insect-borne diseases such as Chikungunya.

IANPHI commends its member NPHIs for their commitment to addressing public health challenges like Chikungunya with collaboration and innovation.