Virus Advances Through East Caribbean
A painful mosquito-borne virus common in Africa and Asia has advanced quickly throughout the eastern Caribbean in the past two months, raising the prospect that a once-distant illness will become entrenched throughout the region, public health experts say.
 
Chikungunya fever, a viral disease similar to dengue, was first spotted in December on the French side of St. Martin and has now spread to seven other countries, the authorities said. About 3,700 people are confirmed or suspected of having contracted it.
 
It was the first time the malady was locally acquired in the Western Hemisphere. Experts say conditions are ripe for the illness to spread to Central and South America, but they say it is unlikely to affect the United States.
 
“It is an important development when disease moves from one continent to another,” said Dr. C. James Hospedales, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad. “Is it likely here to stay? Probably. That’s the pattern we have observed elsewhere.”

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