Chikungunya in Jamaica – public health effects and clinical features in children

03 Dec, 2016

Authors: Christie CD, Melbourne-Chambers R, Ennevor J, et al.

Published in: West Indian Med J 2016;65(3);431-437

Background Chikungunya virus entered the Caribbean for the first time in 2013 and Jamaica experienced its maiden epidemic with Chikungunya Fever in 2014. We aimed to describe the public health effects and describe the clinical features in children and adolescents in Jamaica.

Methods This study reviewed the public health effects of the illness in Jamaica by reviewing available data sources and the clinical features in 210 children and adolescents meeting the case definition at two hospitals, Bustamante Hospital for Children and University Hospital of the West Indies between August 23 and October 31, 2014 by chart review. Descriptive analyses and comparisons between groups using the Mann-Whitney U test were performed with SPSS version 22.

Results The majority of households were affected by the illness which caused widespread absenteeism from school and work, loss of productivity and economic losses estimated at 60 billion dollars. The health sector was impacted by increased numbers seen in clinics and emergency departments, increased need for bed space and pharmaceuticals. Ninety-nine per cent of cases were febrile with a median maximal temperature of 102.4 F. Ninety-three per cent had household contacts of 0–20 persons. In addition to fever, maculopapular rash and joint pains, infants six months and younger presented with irritability and groaning (p = 0.00) and those between six months and six years presented with febrile seizures (p = 0.00). Neurologic involvement was noted in 24%. Apart from anaemia, few had other laboratory derangements. Few had severe organ dysfunction and there were no deaths.

Conclusion The Chikungunya Fever epidemic had significant public health and economic impact in Jamaica. In children, there were characteristic presentations in neonates and young infants and in children six months to six years. Neurologic involvement was common but other organ dysfunction was rare. These findings underscore the need to prevent further epidemics and the quest for a vaccine.