“This is a travel tip — but really a warning,” Jean Humphries of Plymouth wrote in an e-mail to me last week. There is something called chikungunya on some Caribbean islands, and it’s not a newfangled cocktail or culinary specialty. Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne illness that causes fever and severe joint pain.

If you are heading to the Caribbean for spring break, beware this burgeoning disease.

Humphries recently was diagnosed with chikungunya fever after she and her husband stopped on St. Martin — for just four hours — during a February cruise. She believed that’s where a mosquito passed the virus to her.

Among Caribbean islands, St. Martin was the first with chikungunya-infected mosquitoes; the disease, which is common in parts of Asia and Africa, first appeared there in December, according to the World Health Organization. It has since been found on St. Kitts, Anguilla, St. Barthélemy and other islands.

“I spent one week in the hospital being treated for the severity of this infection. It will take a month before I will return to feeling well,” Humphries wrote in an e-mail.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that there are no drugs to treat or prevent chikungunya. Travelers should keep mosquitoes at bay by applying repellents, covering skin and wearing permethrin-treated clothing. The mosquitoes that pass the disease are active during the daytime. Learn more about the illness at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya.

“I am sending this on to you as St. Martin and the Eastern Caribbean are popular spring destinations. Please warn travelers that they will need to use mosquito repellent,” Humphries wrote.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.