A great vacation is a mix of discovery and preparation. The excitement around what you will find and capture is enough to get any seasoned traveller moving, but in the midst of packing, planning and posting, overlooking some very simple steps in preparation can lead to seriously unplanned disasters—especially with your health.
Take it from me. In 2009 after bringing in the new year on the beaches of Roatan, Honduras I came back to the ‘States with a TON of mosquito bites, a tan and little did I know, a nasty strain of malaria. With that, the first website I now check before booking any trip isn’t Trip Advisor — it’s the Center For Disease Control to see if any health advisories exist about my intended destination. And if you plan on traveling anywhere in the Caribbean this year, it should be your first stop too because there is a new(ish) virus on the scene. It’s name is Chikungunya or chik-V and while confined to minor outbreaks throughout Africa and South Asia for over 60 years, chik-V is now in the western hemisphere and spreading rapidly.
In late 2013 after a noticeable outbreak in St. Martin, the disease has now been reported in the following countries*:
Anguilla / Antigua / British Virgin Islands / Dominica / Dominican Republic / French Guiana / Guadeloupe / Guyana / Haiti / Martinique / Puerto Rico / Saint Barthelemy / Saint Kitts / Saint Lucia / Saint Martin (French) / Saint Vincent and the Grenadines / Sint Maarten (Dutch) / Suriname / Trinidad & Tobago / Turks & Caicos / US Virgin Islands
Additionally, cases are now being reported in Brasil, Florida, Mississippi and Texas from people who were traveling throughout the Caribbean. While this is alarming, there have been no international causes for concerns just yet. Even still, the CDC has issued a Watch Level 1 advisory for the disease. In short, this means that the international medical community is concerned and observing, but there is no need for panic and mobilization.
Even if your destination is not listed here, double-check the CDC’s Traveller’s Heath website and research local newspapers who will report new cases online.
Before you book that flight, take a look at this quick primer on chik-V, and what you can do to avoid it: >>
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