The World Cup that starts on Thursday in Brazil will face its share of problems from violent protests to unfinished stadiums. To this list we might add the proliferation of a virus that has spread throughout the Caribbean and was recently detected in Venezuela.
Health officials in that South American country confirmed last week that the chikungunya virus was detected in a citizen who had returned from travel in the Dominican Republic.
The government “was able to quickly detect the illness following tests since the patient” showed symptoms of being infected with the chikungunya virus, said Venezuelan senior health official Jesús Toro.
“The patient is receiving the appropriate treatment,” added Toro one week after ruling out the chikungunya in another patient who had symptoms of the disease such as high fever and severe joint pain.
(Update: As mentioned by one of our eagle-eyed readers and confirmed by the Brazilian media, six cases of chikungunya have reportedly been detected in Sao Paulo state. Among the infected are two officers who returned from Haiti as part of Brazil's involvement in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in that Caribbean country).
Patients with chikungunya usually suffer from very bad headaches, joint pains, rashes and fever. As a result, they become bedridden and racked with pain for weeks at a time while in extreme cases it can cause death.
Chikungunya can be spread through the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry the much deadlier dengue virus and both illnesses cannot be prevented via vaccination. Brazilian health authorities are on the alarm for the spread of dengue during the World Cup but some researchers believe that the tournament could cause an outbreak of the chikungunya in the Americas:
A team of French and Brazilian researchers warn that chikungunya virus is poised to invade, and become epidemic in the Americas according to research published (in April) in the Journal of Virology.
The risk of a “catastrophic” epidemic in the Americas is boosted by the FIFA World Cup… what with people coming in from near and from far, says corresponding author Ricardo Lourenco-de-Oliveira of the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil annually reports the highest incidence of dengue, a virus that is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the same mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya, he says.
The basis of his worries is the study, in which he and his collaborators compared the ability of 35 populations of the two Aedes species to transmit three different genotypes of chikungunya. These populations ranged all over the Americas from Buenos Aires to Tyson, Missouri (near St. Louis.) Even in temperate Missouri, A. albopictus was found to have a high dissemination and transmission ability for two of the three chikungunya genotypes.A European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report found that as of today there are some 100,000 suspected cases of chikungunya throughout the Caribbean and the northeast countries of South America. At least fourteen people have died from the virus since early December in the Dominican Republic, Guadalupe, Martinique, and the French overseas territory of Saint Martin. In Saint Martin (where the ECDC believes the outbreak started six mints ago) there are 3340 suspected chikungunya cases, nearly 800 confirmed or probable cases and three fatalities.
Meanwhile, the Pan American Health Organization detected some thirty cases as of last week on the Americas mainland in the U.S., Panama and Chile. Two new cases of the disease where announced this weekend in Florida and Nebraska. In both cases, the patients were travellers returning from the Caribbean who were then hospitalized for several days and subsequently released.
Despite the risks that dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever could spread during the World Cup, a recent study concluded that skin worms are the greatest health risk to tourists visiting Brazil this summer.
Video Source – YouTube user InformativosTA (Hospitals in the Dominican Republic have been full with patients believed to have been infected by the rapidly spreading chikungunya virus).
Online Sources including Update – Lincoln Journal Star; Nature World News; Pan American Health Organization; European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; Noticias al Dia; El Universal; American Society for Microbiology; Scientific American; BBC News; Veja