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The number of suspected and confirmed cases of the Chikungunia Virus in the Caribbean countries has risen sharply over the past weeks.

Tens of thousands of new cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic and neighbour, Haiti. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the mosquito-born virus which resembles Dengue Fever and can cause fever, skin rash and joint pain.

European health authorities have warned travellers to take extra precautions. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control told people travelling to the Caribbean to apply insect repellant and avoid mosquito bites. France has detected more than 70 imported cases of Chikungunia, mainly in people returning from holidays in the French Antilles.

The Centre said there was a risk the virus could spread in Europe if infected patients were bitten by mosquitoes upon their return home and those mosquitoes then infected other people.

According to the latest figures released by Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), almost 265,000 suspected and confirmed cases have been recorded since the outbreak began in December.

Chikungunia is rarely fatal but according to the PAHO, 21 people have died in the Caribbean after contracting the virus.

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