Over a year has passed since chikungunya swept across the Caribbean, and millions have contracted the mosquito borne illness. While most recovered after a miserable ten days, some patients continue to suffer joint pain. For a number of patients, the ongoing pain is nearly crippling.
Public health officials had been expecting the arrival of chikungunya in the Western Hemisphere for some time so they were not surprised when cases began appearing in Dec. 2013 on the French side of the island of St. Martin. As of April 17, 2015, chikungunya had been confirmed with autochthonous (local) transmission in virtually every country and territory in North and South America. Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Cuba and Peru deny any locally contracted illnesses.
Chikungunya is a viral illness that was originally diagnosed in East Africa in 1952. It is similar to illnesses caused by the four dengue viruses but is rarely fatal. It usually resolves in a week or so, but large numbers of patients have had continued or relapsing episodes of the characteristic joint pain as long as five years after their illness.
Illnesses caused by the mosquito borne chikungunya virus were first detected in the Western Hemisphere in very early Dec. 2013. While there have been imported cases of chikungunya for some years, the illness had never been locally acquired until that time. From French St. Martin, the illness quickly spread to other French-speaking islands in the eastern Caribbean and then to other islands and onto the South American continent.