Reports have surfaced of a painful mosquito-borne virus spreading throughout Caribbean territories over the past few months. Chikungunya fever was first spotted in December on the French side of St. Martin, according to The New York Times - a particularly popular location for superyacht charter during the winter and Caribbean season – and now has 476 confirmed cases.

Local governments have begun efforts to contain and abolish the muscle-affecting virus and it is yet unclear to what extent this has affected the superyacht industry, though its affects on the tourism industry are being felt with travel search engines reporting a decline in the number of St. Martin enquiries.

What the outbreak does raise in the context of the superyacht industry, however, is the problem of on-board medical epidemics – something that Geoff Moore, general manager – yacht management at Royale Oceanic says it much more common in the superyacht industry than most believe; it is merely that due to a yacht’s size they get little exposure during these scenarios, unlike high-profile cases of cruise ships being refused port entry in similar situations.

“Diseases and viruses can be brought on board my crew from local or further afield leave, guests, local officials or foreign surveyors. If the yacht is cruising in an area where there are local diseases or virus outbreaks, then this can be foreseen and suitable preventative measures put in place. Local agencies, port officials, yacht management companies, medical suppliers and The World Health Organisation are all sources of information of both identifying hazardous locations and providing suitable advice and guidance on enforcing practical preventative action,” explains Moore.

“Diseases and viruses can be brought on board my crew from local or further afield leave, guests, local officials or foreign surveyors."

“Should an epidemic break out on board, care should be taken to reduce the contact any contaminated persons have with other personal,” continues Moore, who adds that quarantine is sometimes necessary to ensure the yacht can be moved to a safe place to obtain medical treatment for those on board. “It is vital that causalities are separated from others and that the captain and their command team and navigators are as protected as best able to ensure the yacht can continue to operate and sail safely to a port of refuse and seek medical treatment, where the yacht may possibly be quarantined depending on the seriousness of the epidemic and stance of the port officials.”

With yachts now choosing to venture to more off-the-beaten track destinations, a sufficient understanding of the on-board practices to both prevent an on-board epidemic and deal with one should the scenario arise is becoming increasingly important. Captains must remember, in addition, that medical advice is always available to superyachts, even those without management companies or contracted medical suppliers, via the free radio medical service or doctors from the local areas.

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