The Health Ministry has been forced to ramp up its vector control programme after confirmation of two locally transmitted cases of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus.

The virus – which is caused by the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito – has been spreading rapidly throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

Health Minister, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, this morning confirmed the local cases as he addressed a press briefing at his Ministry’s offices in downtown, Kingston.

He also addressed the country’s response to the deadly Ebola virus which has been spreading in parts of West Africa and sparking fears worldwide.

Dr. Ferguson says confirmation of the two local cases of Chikungunya came two days ago.

Up until the Minister’s announcement today, Jamaica had only confirmed two imported cases of Chikungunya. Both of those cases were confirmed last month.

Having now confirmed two local cases, the Health Ministry is intensifying its response.

Dr. Ferguson says his Ministry has also increased the capacity of its vector control teams across the island by providing additional equipment and supplies.

He says they’ve also begun implementing a public education strategy with the Jamaica Information Service.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, 31 countries in the region have now confirmed local cases of Chikungunya.

The virus doesn’t often cause death. But there’ve been 32 since the outbreak began in December last year.

PAHO says as of August 1, there’ve been more than 4-thousand-7-hundred cases of local transmission in the Americas.