The chikungunya outbreak that began in French Polynesia some 5 weeks ago has exploded into thousands of cases, according to multiple media reports. Reports say the number of cases range from 5,000 to 8,000 cases since the outbreak began in early October.

Aedes albopictus female mosquito feeding on a human host/James Gathany

In addition, at least two fatalities linked to the mosquito borne virus have been reported from Tahiti.

According to the office manager for Public Health Surveillance in French Polynesia, Henri-Pierre Mallet, the two person’s advanced age resulted in complications. These two deaths are the 1st currently recorded in Polynesia.

Chikungunya outbreaks are also on going in American Samoa, Samoa and Tokelau.

On October 11, 2014, Tahiti reported locally transmitted chikungunya cases for the first time. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with chikungunya and are spreading it to people. Chikungunya cases have also been reported on the Austral and Palliser Islands.

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.

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