Chikungunya

CHIKUNGUNYA : THE RISKS FOR THE TRAVELERS INTENDING TO GO TO REUNION ISLAND

Reunion Island has been severely affected by a chikungunya outbreak in 2005 and 2006. This was one of the first chikungunya outbreaks in the Indian Ocean. This viral mosquito-borne disease was affecting more than one third of the population of the island in the beginning of 2006, with over 45 000 cases recorded between February 6 and 12. During the whole outbreak, 266 000 people have been contaminated, including 246 cases of resuscitation and 40 cases of transmission from pregnant women to their babies. The virus was especially virulent just before the 2005 austral winter. But what about the current situation on Reunion Island ? Are there still specific precautions to take concerning chikungunya ?

CHIKUNGUNYA ON REUNION ISLAND : THE CURRENT SITUATION

Since April 2007, no new locally transmitted case of chikungunya has been reported on Reunion Island. Only two imported cases have been recorded. After the outbreak, the local health authorities have put in place specific measures aiming at monitoring chikungunya, fighting the disease and eradicating mosquitoes. However, the French Sanitary Surveillance Institute evoked in 2009 that Reunion Island was still in an “inter-epidemic situation, with no confirmed viral circulation”.

IS IT SAFE TO VISIT REUNION ISLAND ?

As the risk of getting infected with the chikungunya virus on Reunion Island is currently extremely low, there is no need to cancel or to postpone a trip to the territory. Taking the usual protection measures against mosquitoes while on the island is enough to prevent the disease.

These measures include sleeping under a mosquito net impregnated with Permethrin, avoiding frequenting humid areas, wearing loose-fitting protective clothes, and applying mosquito repellent on exposed skin. It is better to stay in a ventilated area, preferably air-conditioned, whenever possible, as mosquitoes don’t like this kind of environments. Pregnant women and young children should be especially careful of mosquito bites, as they are more vulnerable to chikungunya. However, they must use mosquito repellents with extreme caution, as these products may be dangerous for them (depending on the type of chemicals and on the concentration of active ingredients they contain).

If you experience a sudden fever accompanied by joint pain, body aches and headaches while or after visiting Reunion Island, you must see a doctor immediately. Note that there is no vaccine or effective treatment to prevent chikungunya. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed to treat the disease.