PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday September 15, 2014, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it has not stopped conducting tests for the Chikungunya virus but has instead “scaled up its capability” to meet increased demands.
A CARPHA statement said that contrary to media reports, the agency has in fact stepped up its activities in light of the evolving epidemic.
CARPHA executive director Executive Director, Dr. C. James Hospedales, said that the agency scaled up its capability to meet the increased demand for testing in the Caribbean.
Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged Caribbean countries to eradicate the breeding sites of mosquitoes that transmit dengue and the Chikungunya virus even as it warned of a possible increase in patients suffering from these diseases.
Since the start of the year, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported nearly 850,000 cases of dengue and 470 deaths from severe dengue.
PAHO said that between December 2013 and September 5, this year, 650,000 cases of Chikungunya, including 37 deaths, have been reported.
Dr. Hospedales said that CARPHA adheres to public health surveillance principles, and that once several people with Chikungunya have had their diagnoses confirmed through laboratory testing in an area within a country, then testing is only carried out for certain groups of people based on clinical symptoms.
He said tests are also carried out in newly affected areas to confirm whether or not the virus is present and circulating in that community.
Additionally, if a dengue test is positive, it is unlikely that the person would be tested for Chikungunya. Given this policy, Dr. Hospedales said it is not necessary to test every single case, but reiterated that the agency continues testing for the region.