Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
Fourteen cases of chikungunya have been reported in Italy, according to news from the WHO’s regional Europe office. The cases, including 6 in Rome and 8 in the coastal area of Anzio, were all autochthonous – additional cases are also being investigated.
This is the second chikungunya outbreak seen in Italy. The first, in 2007, was primarily in the north-east of the country and comprised 217 confirmed cases in the Emilia Romagna region. This was not only the first outbreak in Italy but was the first time transmission had been reported in Europe; the disease mostly occurs in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Onset of symptoms of the first case has been confirmed to have been on August 5th, with the dates of onset for the latest cases being between August 25th and September 7th. The WHO have stated that there is a risk of further chikungunya transmission as the Aedes albopictus mosquito is present in the Mediterranean basin and has previously demonstrated the capacity to sustain the virus. Moreover, the area is highly populated, especially during the summer months that are popular with tourists, further increasing the risk of transmission.
Italian authorities have implemented public health measures, including vector control and communicating the risks to the public. Prevention relies heavily on reducing the number of water-filled containers, which act as breeding sites for the disease-carrying mosquitoes and efforts will focus around this. In addition, the WHO has recommended that those residing in, or visiting, the area take precautions such as minimizing skin exposure and wearing insect repellent.