Cases of chikungunya, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes in tropical climates, have been reported in Boston and surrounding communities among people returning from the Caribbean, state public health officials said Thursday.

The Boston Public Health Commission sent an alert to physicians Tuesday warning them to look out for symptoms of the illness, which causes severe fever and joint pain. Four cases have been reported just this week in Boston residents, and several cases have been confirmed elsewhere in New England during the past month.

The alert said patients who recently traveled to the Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic, could be infected.

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