Belfast Telegraph

12-fold rise in viral illness cases

The number of cases of a mosquito-borne viral illness that causes fever and joint pains rose more than 12-fold last year, health officials have warned.

There were 295 cases of chikungunya in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2014 compared to 24 in 2013, Public Health England (PHE) said.

The illness has similar symptoms to dengue fever but joint pain may be more severe. Other symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

Most patients make a full recovery, but in some cases joint pain and arthritis may persist for several months, or even years.

PHE said the majority of people caught the illness on trips to the Caribbean and South America as a result of a large outbreak that started in the French Caribbean territory of St Martin in December 2013.

Chikungunya is also found in parts of Asia and Africa but does not occur in the UK.

There were just 15 cases in 2012, according to PHE.

Dr Hilary Kirkbride, head of travel and migrant health at PHE, said: " Chikungunya is an unpleasant viral illness that can cause fever and joint pains, which in some patients may persist for a prolonged period.

"Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites particularly around dusk and dawn when day biting mosquitoes are most active, as there is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against chikungunya."

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director at the National Travel Health Network and Centre, said: " We strongly recommend travellers seek pre-travel advice from their GP, a specialist travel clinic or pharmacy at least six to eight weeks before they travel.

"To minimise the risk of mosquito bites it is advisable to wear appropriate clothing to cover up, such as long sleeve tops and trousers, and to use insect repellents. If a traveller develops symptoms such as fever, rash or joint pain within two weeks of returning from a foreign trip, they should seek medical advice from their GP."

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