Chikungunya Outbreak Confirmed North of Australia
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Health Notice today confirming a chikungunya virus outbreak is impacting several municipalities in Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor.
Located about 2,000 miles north of Australia, local media recently reported about 183 chikungunya cases.
Timor-Leste's Vice-Minister of Health previously noted that "since the Restoration of Timor-Leste's Independence, we have faced many problems, including several diseases. Being a tropical country, our country is considered an endemic zone for several infectious diseases (malaria, dengue) caused by vectors (mosquitoes)."
On February 8, 2024, the CDC said people could avoid this mosquito-transmitted disease by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, staying in places with air conditioning, or using window and door screens.
If infected, you should seek medical care if you develop fever, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash during or after travel.
However, chikungunya can be fatal.
A recent study published by the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found chikungunya disease is associated with an increased risk of death for up to 84 days after symptom onset.
Furthermore, the CDC stated in this Level 2 - Practice Enhanced Precautions Notice that if you are pregnant, reconsider travel to Timore-Leste, mainly if you are close to delivering your baby. Mothers infected around the time of delivery can pass the virus to their baby before or during delivery.
Newborns infected this way or by mosquito bites are at risk for severe illness, including poor long-term outcomes.
While the U.S. FDA recently approved Valneva SE's IXCHIQ® Chikungunya Vaccine, the CDC has yet to authorize its use in the U.S.
The CDC's vaccine committee is scheduled to review this vaccine on February 28, 2024. They intend to review proposed policy options for chikungunya vaccine use among U.S. adults traveling abroad.
As of February 2024, several countries have recently confirmed chikungunya outbreaks,