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SXM Blog

St Martin Chikungunya Virus Update

2/14/2014 - By Robbin

At the risk of sounding glib, in my opinion (and I work with and speak to folks who live on SXM every day), this has been blown out of proportion.  Most of the cases reported are locals living areas” where there is standing water allowing for the breeding of mosquitoes. 

As of this date, there are few cases reported in US or Canadian visitors.  The island goverments have been spraying like mad and doing all they can do to protect their tourism industry and there haven’t been any cases in Orient Bay.... many visitors report that they see fewer mosquitoes than ever in the past due to the government actions. 

 

There are a number of common sense things we suggest to avoid mosquito bites such as wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when they are typically out, using repellant at all times, keep doors and windows shut and us AC, etc, however, there is no guarantee.  We have heard many guests use an Avon product called "Skin So Soft" or it's generic equivelent.  Some recommend wiping dryer softner sheets on expossed body parts.  Both of these home remedys seem to work at repelling mosquitoes.  

The island has been at 95% occupancy in hotels, condos, and villas since December and while there have been a few cancellations, they are mostly people with compromised immune systems for those traveling with small children.

 

We have had a few cancellations due to concerns, however, villa owners are not refunding payments.  We of course recommend travel insurance, but generally it does not cover this situation. Travel insurance will cover actual illness rendering the insured party unable to travel or weather conditions preventing travel, but I’m afraid this is a grey area. 

I was in St Martin 3 weeks in November and did not see more than 2 mosquitoes and was not bitten even once.  I thought it unusual at the time but as I look back perhaps they had already started eradicating the mosquito population?  At any rate, I’ll be back again for three weeks in April.

 

That said, most all properties are being routinely sprayed and if you see any mosquitoes call the local management company  for your property and ask them to spray again.  Property managment companies work hard to insure there are no “standing water” issues at the properties and in many cases you get very nice trade winds coming up off the sea.

 

Here are some excerpts from NY Times article on Feb 8:

 

Public health and tourism officials on the islands are urging visitors to wear long sleeves and insect repellent high in DEET.

“Not a lot of bookings were canceled, but there were a few people not understanding exactly what this was, thinking it was a pandemic on a large scale,” said Kate Richardson, a spokeswoman for the French St. Martin’s tourism board. “

People got a bit scared, and a few of them have declined to take their trips.”  She said the hotel association had not reported the number of cancellations.

 

Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-GUN-ya) causes high fever and muscle pain, symptoms similar to those caused by dengue fever, which has swept the Caribbean for several years. While dengue can be fatal and chinkungunya rarely is, experts said the effects of chikungunya,  such as pain in the small joints, tend to last longer, sometimes for months.

 

The health ministry in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the Caribbean island, said no Canadian, European or American tourist at a resort had fallen ill as of this date.   

 

“In order to keep the virus under control, various proactive steps have been taken and continue to be taken by both the Dutch and French authorities,” Lorraine Scot, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said in a statement.  Those steps include fogging, surveillance of suspected cases, biological lab investigations and a public-awareness campaign alerting people to the dangers of standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

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