With the winter travel season in full swing through the holidays, the
The chikungunya virus in spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and can cause "debilitating illness, most often characterized by fever,
Recent outbreaks of the virus, which the CDC said is rarely fatal, have been recorded in Europe but not previously in the Americas.
"Microbes know no boundaries, and the appearance of the chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere represents another threat to health security," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.
The CDC noted that the virus has the potential to spread elsewhere in the Caribbean, where cruise ships often stop at multiple ports in a single week and tourists mingle with locals at cafes and markets. Most large cruise ships dock on the Dutch side of St. Martin, but the French area's marinas and beaches are popular with charter boats, sailing vessels and day-trippers who visit the French-side capital, Marigot, while their cruise ships are at Philipsburg.
The agency recommended that travelers to the region use insect repellant and long-sleeved shirts and pants and to use air conditioning where available and netting where not.
The island divided between French-speaking St. Martin -- popular with French Canadians escaping the northern winter -- and Dutch-administered St. Maarten was already fighting an outbreak of dengue fever, spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the chikungunya virus.