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Port-of-Spain hosts international Chikungunya talks

Published: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Dr James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha), right, talks with Cleveland Thomas, International Telecommunication Union area representative for the Caribbean during the opening session of the Carpha Chikungunya Consultation, Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, March 3, 2015. Photo: Abraham Diaz

The number of new Chikungunya cases in the Caribbean is expected to fall this year, and regional health officials are working on stronger measures to prevent and treat the virus.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) launched a three-day forum at Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, where, apart from regional health officials gathered with representatives from the European Union, the US National Institutes of Health, Public Health England and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to share their experiences from countries affected by the disease and to brainstorm new ways to keep it under control.

“(We have) a number of experts from international agencies to look at the situation with Chikungunya that we face in the region, share information, learn lessons and to develop some new ways of dealing with the problem,” said Dr C James Hospedales, executive director of Carpha.

Carpha was established in 2011 by an inter-governmental agreement signed by heads of Caribbean community member states. It began its operations in January 2013, nearly a year before the Chikungunya outbreak wreaked havoc across the Caribbean.

The outbreak in the region started in French dependency St Martin, then spread across the Caribbean, crippling Dominica and spreading to the United States, Venezuela and Colombia, where it is continuing to grow. 

According to Carpha, the disease originated from Africa and was first identified in Tanzania in the 1950s and now be found across the globe in many places where Aedes mosquitoes live. Although the disease rarely results in death, the symptoms can be near-crippling and has shown to severely affect productivity in countries most affected.

“We’re all putting heads together to see what we can learn and do differently going forward,” Hospedales said. “Chikungunya is unlikely to get worse this year. To be honest, in most of the Caribbean, the brunt of it has passed. But I hesitate because I haven’t got all the information in yet. Some countries such as Dominica believe that they have gone through the epidemic and are now clear and have just declared that the epidemic is over.

“A significant amount of people, particularly older people, particularly women, are experiencing chronic long-standing joint pains, nerve pains, that make it more difficult for them to do their normal household duties, do their normal occupational responsibilities. That is of great concern.”

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