Three people have died in Puerto Rico after becoming infected with a mosquito-borne virus that is raging across Central America, South America and the Caribbean region, Fox News Latino reported. The territory health department’s chief epidemiologist, Brenda Rivera Garcia, said Friday the chikungunya virus had claimed two lives in greater San Juan and a third in the northeastern town of Fajardo.
Health authorities in the country are investigating two other deaths to establish whether they were caused by chikungunya. The virus has infected hundreds of thousands of people and killed an estimated 113 across the Americas, after emerging in the Western Hemisphere in a big way less than a year ago, Fox News said.
There is no vaccine for the chikungunya virus, which is most frequently spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya symptoms include fever, severe joint and muscle pains, and headaches.
Among the countries affected by the current outbreak, the Dominican Republic has been the worst hit, with almost half a million cases, the Pan American Health Organization reported Friday.
Cases of infection have also been reported in Brazil and the U.S., with victims believed to have returned after traveling to infected areas.
The outbreak has caused huge economic damage, including the costs of absenteeism from work, the provision of health care and the purchase of pesticides to kill mosquitos.
Chikungunya has been known for decades in parts of Africa and Asia. The name is derived from the Makonde language in Tanzania and translates as “that which bends up,” which refers to the excruciating joint pain that causes those infected to contort with anguish.
The violence of the current outbreak is believed to be have been exacerbated by the comparative lack of immunity in a population that has previously been relatively unaffected by the virus.