Home > Articles > Protect yourself while travelling: chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus plaguing Caribbean
Protect yourself while travelling: chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus plaguing Caribbean

Protect yourself while travelling: chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus plaguing Caribbean

By: Maybelle Jadotte, MPA
June 30, 2014

There’s always an element of risk when you travel. You may be late for boarding, you may get ill while enroute or during your trip. Planning is integral to a productive and fun trip. Mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya is plaguing Caribbean. Travelers are concerned about their health. Be aware and proactive about your health whether traveling in your hometown or abroad. Those most at risk of a severe infection include newborns, adults 65 and older, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

When traveling to the Caribbean travel safe and travel smart. Know the symptoms and sign and take daily precautions. This informational document is designed to convey the current worldwide situation related to Chikungunya and the precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk of infection while traveling to the Caribbean. It is derived from guidance from the WHO (World Health Organization), as well as, personal experiences.

Chikungunya is a viral disease that is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. In December 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported local transmission of chikungunya in Saint Martin. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with chikungunya and are spreading it to people. This is the first time that local transmission of chikungunya has been reported in the Americas. It’s likely only a matter of time before chikungunya is found in mosquitoes in the United States, possibly as early as this summer, according to the CDC.

Know the Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms appear between 4 and 7 days after the patient has been bitten by the infected mosquito and these include:

  • High fever (40°C/ 104°F)
  • Joint pain* (lower back, ankle, knees, wrists or phalanges)
  • Joint swelling
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Source: World Health Organization

*Author’s Note: Pain may be debilitating. Reported cases of being bed bound after infection.

What can travelers do to prevent chikungunya?

There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. If you believe you have contracted chikungunya, consult a medical professional. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and fluids are often used to relieve mild symptoms.

What you can do to prevent mosquito bites?

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Consider wearing earth tones i.e. khakis and avoid wearing blue or black o Blue and black make it difficult to see mosquitos on your person and these colors tend to attract mosquitos
  • Reduce or suspend the use of deodorant and perfumes, the fragrant smells attract mosquitos
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
  • Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
    • DEET is the active ingredient found in many mosquito, fly, and tick repellents on the US market. Products containing DEET include Off! and Cutter) DEET is available at 100% strength and can be purchased at most Army/Navy stores and Outdoor stores. When using 100% DEET, spray on exposed skin with the exception of your face. Spray on fingers and dab on face avoiding the eyes.
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
    • IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
      • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing however this may be cost prohibitive. An alternative is treating your existing clothing with permethrin which is sold at camping and outdoor stores. When possible, treat clothing with permethrin three days before traveling. When using the product spray clothing in a ventilated area. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last. Remember; do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Use a bed net indoors, the net must be hung in order to be effective
  • Additionally, stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms

Quick Tips

  1. Wear loose fitting earth tones
  2. Avoid blue and black
  3. Reduce or suspend the use fragrant deodorants and perfumes
  4. Use insect repellent
  5. Avoid shaded, bushy areas where mosquitoes like to rest.
  6. Limit outdoor evening activity, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

Are there any non-chemical, natural, or botanical products that are effective in repelling mosquitoes?

Some products containing botanical oils also provide protection from mosquito bites. However, studies have suggested that these products offer protection for much shorter periods of time. A product containing 26% oil of lemon eucalyptus and a product containing 2% soybean oil have been shown to provide protection for up to 4 hours.

What can I do around my home to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes?

Mosquito Breeding Sites

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing or slow moving water. Also weeds, tall grass, and bushes provide an outdoor resting place for mosquitoes. In residential areas, standing water can accumulate in unused tires, cans, unused pools and pool covers and other receptacles that collect water. Mosquitoes can enter homes through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens. Eliminate standing water and prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. See attached infographic for more details.

  • Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property.
  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water holding containers.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters at least twice a year
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Change the water in bird baths at least every 3 or 4 days.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Repair or replace all screens in your home that have tears or holes.
  • Remind or help neighbors to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites on their properties.

Some local hardware stores may carry a product called Mosquito Dunk® that contains a larvicide – Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) – for use in areas of standing water around the home. Eliminating standing water around the home to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes and warns that direct handling of larvicides may cause skin and eye irritation. Use these products only as directed by manufacturer. If these products are purchased for home use, we recommend careful reading of the hazards label, directions, and details regarding storage and handling.

What if I’m staying at a hotel?

Express your concerns and if you see standing water tell the front desk or hotel manager and employ the preventive tips above.


For more information about using repellents safely please consult the EPA Web site or the CDC web site

Information for travelers and traveler’s packing kit consult the Centers for Disease Control:
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/haiti http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/haiti/traveler/packing-list

Visit the World Health Organization website for guidance and trends: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/

National Pesticide Information Center

About the Author:
Maybelle Jadotte, MPA is a Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery SME, Associate Professor & Public Speaker. Maybelle is a board member of the HHTARG and Chair of the Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Committee.

For more information or if you’re interested in learning about the Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Committee contact Maybelle Jadotte.



Scroll To Top