Three cases of the mosquito-borne disease chikungunya have been confirmed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a senior health official told I-Witness News on Thursday.
The official said that this is the “public health issue of national importance” that the Ministry of Health will address at a press conference announced for 2 p.m. Thursday.
The confirmation comes less than 12 hours after freelance journalist Jerry S. George posted on the Internet a video in which a woman from Paget Farm, Bequia said that she and three other members of her family had been diagnosed with the disease.
Chikungunya, which originated in Africa, has been spreading across the Caribbean, with St. Lucia confirming its first case last month.
The World Health Organisation says chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common, the Who further said.
In the video, recorded on Wednesday, other residents of Bequia, in the Northern Grenadines, displayed symptoms, such as rashes, and joint pains.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Luis de Shong, in a note to the media Thursday morning, announced “an urgent media conference” to be hosted by Health Minister Clayton Burgin, supported by the relevant professionals within the national Health sector.
“A public health issue of national importance will be addressed during the stated media conference,” the note said.
The confirmation of the disease comes just after the Easter weekend, when large numbers of Vincentians visited Bequia for the celebrations there.
Last Thursday, de Shong issued two separate news releases, saying there were no confirmed cases of the chikungunya virus in SVG, contrary to reports circulated orally and via social media.
In a separate release that same day, de Shong said the Insect Vector Control Unit would conduct fogging operations in Bequia once on Thursday and twice on Friday.
In the video recorded on Wednesday, a woman tells the journalist that on Monday she woke up with joint pains but went to work.
By the time she got home from work, her joint were swollen, the woman said.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), I got up and couldn’t even walk properly,” she said, adding that she then travelled to St. Vincent, where a doctor prescribed antibiotics and other medication.
“Seriously, I wouldn’t wish it for my biggest enemy. Too much pain, pain in the joint, fever, headache,” the woman said.