The number of chikungunya cases in Jamaica has grown by three, the Ministry of Health said Thursday. According to a Jamaica Observer report, there is now a total of 24 cases of the mosquito borne virus on the island– 21 are locally transmitted, two are imported and one considered cryptic due to the uncertainty of where it was contracted. 

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

The Jamaica Ministry of Health notes that the country has been one of the “least impacted” in the Caribbean, which along with the rest of the Americas has seen 650,000 cases since December 2013. However, one critic says the Ministry numbers are not credible and is likely much higher.

The Jamaica Observer reports that Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Kenneth Baugh says the numbers the government are releasing are not only “not credible”, he says they are not taking the chikungunya situation seriously. “Many more people are being afflicted by this illness and are not being recorded and these low numbers could lull people into false sense of security,” Dr Baugh argued.

“This is a very serious situation and even with health practitioners warning of the impending increase in the rates of infection, there is still a garbage problem in many areas of the country and many areas where mosquitoes can find fertile breeding grounds,” said Dr Baugh directed at the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).

This comes after the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) warned the region to be prepared for the “full impact” of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus eight months after the first case was detected. 

CARPHA executive director Dr James Hospedales said that Caribbean governments were making a “valiant effort” in dealing with the virus, adding “what we have been doing has not been sufficient and the increase of dengue that we have seen in the last years is a marker that what we are doing is not working as well as it ought to work.

CARPHA is planning expert consultation next month to see how the Caribbean can better handle the epidemic of the newly arrived virus. 

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.