Exactly one year after the mosquito borne virus, chikungunya, made its first appearance in the Western hemisphere as a locally acquired infection in the French Quarter section of the Caribbean island of St. Martin, the epidemic that has spread throughout the Americas has topped the 1 million case mark, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Friday.

Western hemisphere map Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony
Western hemisphere map
Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony

The most recent tally from the international health organization put the number of suspected and confirmed autochthonous, or locally acquired cases at 1,011,548, up nearly 36,000 cases from last weeks report.

The eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, after not reporting new cases for weeks, saw 25,381 additional cases reported to the UN agency. The Dominican Republic accounts for slightly more than half (51.8 percent)of all local transmission cases seen in the Western hemisphere with 524,297 total to date.

In South America, Colombia saw an additional 6,350 cases, bringing their total to 45,513, the most cases reported on the South American continent. Brazil also reported a little spike recording 1,130 confirmed and 792 suspected chikungunya cases as of epidemiological week 46.

LISTEN: Interview with Roger S. Nasci, PhD, Chief of the Arboviral Diseases Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne diseases at the CDC about Chikungunya virus Dec. 18, 2013

Chikungunya virus is transmitted  by the same mosquitoes involved in the dengue fever  transmission (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). In 2014 to date, Brazil has reported  547,612 cases of dengue fever.

In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico reported another 1,679 cases of the mosquito borne viral disease. The total cases on the island now stands at 22,449.

In North America, the island of Bermuda reported their first chikungunya cases of the year with 10 suspected and confirmed cases tallied during the past week.

According to the World Health Organization, Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a root verb in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain isoften very debilitating, but usually ends within a few days or weeks.

Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints.

Related: Tahiti reports more cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome possibly linked to chikungunya

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