With the introduction of the mosquito borne virus, chikungunya, in the Americas last December, we’ve seen a number of countries especially hard hit with the disease–the Dominican Republic  with 486,000 cases, Guadaloupe with 80,000 cases and Colombia and El Salvador with 16,000 cases each.

Puerto Rico chikungunya
Puerto Rico chikungunya

On the island of Puerto Rico, the number of chikungunya cases continue to rise outpacing a related viral disease from the same mosquito vector, dengue fever.

As of the end of September 2014, or Epidemiological Week 39, Puerto Rico has reported 16,198 suspected and confirmed autochthonous cases of chikungunya, an increase of some 1,700 cases from the week prior. The Departamento de Salud de Puerto Rico has reported 3 chikungunya related deaths.

This compares to the approximately 5,000 suspected and confirmed dengue fever cases recorded during the same period.

Puerto Rico declared an epidemic of the chikungunya virus in July.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), there has been 789,000 locally acquired chikungunya cases reported in the Americas during the past 10 months.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It can cause high fever, join and muscle pain, and headache. Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability.

There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it. Pending the development of a new vaccine, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.