For those hoping to travel to Southeast Asia to soak up the last days of summer as summer vacation reaches a close, be wary of the rampant vector mosquitos. There have been breakouts of chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and dengue fever in various vacation hot spots throughout the region, and the number of imported cases in Taiwan reached a five-year high this year, with 14 CHIKV cases and 151 dengue fever cases. The Taiwanese government on July 15 issued its highest level of travel alert warning for nine Southeast Asia nations.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed three more cases of imported CHIKV, including one Filipino worker, one Taiwanese woman who travelled to the Philippines and Malaysia for work and one Indonesian national of Chinese descent. Two of them were found to have fevers upon arrival at the airport while entering the country.
The CDC in 2007 announced its classification of CHIKV as a type-two communicable disease. To date there have been 54 confirmed cases of the virus in Taiwan, all of which were contracted in other countries. This year there have already been 14 cases — the highest on record. Indonesia has the highest rate of CHIKV, followed by Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia respectively.
CDC deputy director Chuang Jen-hsiang says that Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti are the two most prominent species of mosquito that transmit CHIKV and dengue fever, adding that the symptoms for both viruses are quite similar, as are treatment methods. The difference is, however, that the incubation period for CHIKV is relatively shorter and people who are infected with the virus are typically discovered at airports, but CHIKV also causes pain in all of the body’s joints without causing other more severe symptoms associated with dengue fever, which Chuang says has a longer incubation period and causes pain in the bones and can possibly turn into a much more severe illness.
Vector mosquitos can carry more than one virus and therefore people bitten by these mosquitos can also be infected with more than one virus, causing even more severe symptoms to occur and more discomfort. Philip Yi-chun Lo, a doctor with the CDC, says that since the government has lifted the ban on traveling to the Philippines more tourists will probably be going there, but he would like to remind people to use mosquito repellent when travelling to Southeast Asia to visit relatives or for travel, and to wear light-colored, long-sleeve pants and shirts in order to avoid being bitten and infected by mosquitos.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)