The Caribbean witnesses a surge of Chikungunya reported cases

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Public Health agencies are warning of a recent surge in reported cases of Chikungunya, a virus that is usually found in Africa and Asia. It’s been spreading rapidly in the Caribbean since early December.

Caribbean Islands

Professor Robert Novak, PhD, of the USF College of Public Health’s Department of Global Health, possesses considerable experience working with arboviruses such as this one.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus that causes it’s victims to suffer from a fever and rash, as well as severe joint pain. According to Dr. Novak, Chikungunya’s symptoms are very similar to those of dengue fever making it very hard to diagnose.

“The biggest problem is that Chikungunya isn’t a mortal disease, although a very debilitating disease with some individuals having long term and crippling effects,” Novak said.

Dr. Robert Novak, professor of global health

Dr. Robert Novak, professor of global health

Travelers to the Caribbean should be cautious by protecting themselves from local mosquitos.  If someone develops flu-like symptoms during a trip, or up to two weeks afterwards, officials advise seeking medical attention immediately.

Many of Chikungunya’s confirmed cases are on the island of St. Martin, although more cases are starting to appear on the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the British Virgin Islands.  One commonality that these islands share is huge tourism industries, thus making the spread of Chikungunya more likely.

To learn more about Chikungunya and ways travelers can protect themselves, visit World Health Organization.

Dr. Novak is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Last September, the Society for Vector Ecology presented him with the Distinguished Service Award.

The Department of Global Health is Dr. Novak’s academic home. They offer more than 10 concentrations that lead to MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees, as well several dual degrees, graduate certificates, and special programs. Most recently, Global Health added an online master of public health degree in infection control to its academic offerings.

Story by Victoria Danforth, USF College of Public Health.