Newly arrived virus spreads in Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic  — Health officials in the Dominican Republic say a mosquito-borne virus has spread widely since making its first appearance in the country.

The Health Ministry says it has documented about 3,500 suspected cases of chikungunya virus since it was first detected in March. Most cases have been near the capital, but Health Minister Freddy Hidalgo said Tuesday there have been some isolated cases in northern provinces.

Hidalgo spoke at the start of a two-day conference attended by representatives from Central American countries.

santodomingo_small Newly arrived virus spreads in Dominican Republic

The virus is most commonly found in Asia and Africa. It was first detected in the Caribbean in December in French St. Martin and has spread to nearby islands.

Chikungunya is rarely fatal but it can cause high fever and intense joint and muscle pain. There is no vaccine.

 The study “Chikungunya in the Americas” by Leparc-Goffart and colleagues and published in The Lancet Our F1000 commentator is Dr. Lyle Peterson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at Fort Collins, Colorado, who gave this study a ranking of “Changes Clinical Practice” and concluded that “Travelers recently returning from the Caribbean who present with fever and polyarthralgia should be tested for chikungunya virus.” In his commentary, Dr. Petersen wrote:

This article reports the first instance of autochthonous transmission of chikungunya virus in the Americas (on St. Martin Island in the Caribbean). Furthermore, the article contains a phylogenetic analysis showing that the virus is of the Asian genotype and most closely resembles viruses circulating in Indonesia, China, and the Philippines. These findings have several important implications. Since the virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti, which is present throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the potential for large outbreaks throughout the region is enormous, such as occurs with dengue.

 Although Aedes albopictus can also be a vector, unlike the East Central South African genotype, the Asian genotype does not carry a genetic mutation in the envelope gene that favors replication in Aedes albopictus. This would limit the potential for outbreaks in areas where A. albopictus but not A. aegypti is present, such as much of the eastern United States.

This concludes today’s commentary from Dr. Petersen. For the F1000 Practice-Changing Minute, I am Bret Stetka. Thank you for listening.