What Is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a virus that is
transmitted by mosquitoes. Also known as CHIKV, the virus was first detected in
1952 in southern Tanzania. The name means “to become contorted” in the Kimakonde language. The name alludes to the stooped appearance of chikungunya sufferers with joint pain, which is one of the symptoms of the infection.
The condition occurred primarily
in Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent for several decades. I spread to
northeastern Italy in 2007, according to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2014). It has since been diagnosed in the Americas and elsewhere
in Europe. From 2006 to 2009, an estimated 106 chikungunya cases were diagnosed
in the United States (in people who had contracted the virus while traveling), yet those cases did not lead to an epidemic, according to the
Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (2014).
In 2004, a severe outbreak of
the chikungunya virus affected two million people in Asia and Africa.
What Causes Chikungunya?
Two mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are carriers for the chikungaya virus. These mosquito types are most common in the
southeastern U.S. and tend to bite people during the day. When an infected
mosquito bites a person, the virus can be transmitted and then multiplies
rapidly in the blood.
Mosquitoes also transmit viruses such as dengue and West Nile
(WNV). The chikungaya virus is more likely to infect a person than other
mosquito-transmitted viruses. After a bite by a carrier mosquito, 72 to 97
percent of people will experience symptoms, according to the Center for
Infectious Disease Research and Policy (2014).
What Are the Symptoms of Chikungunya?
Chikungunya symptoms closely
mirror those of the dengue fever, which can make diagnosis difficult. The most
common symptom is joint aches and pains. The disease also causes the following
- muscle pain
Symptoms normally last for 3 to 7 days. However, some
people can experience them for as long as 12 days.
Chikungunya symptoms differ from
those of dengue fever because the pain is more intense and more concentrated in
the joints. This joint pain can last for years after primary chikungaya
symptoms have largely passed.
How Is Chikungunya Diagnosed?
Physicians diagnose chikungunya based on symptoms. A blood
test can also reveal higher than normal amounts of antibodies, which can
indicate a virus. Sometimes, these are not detected until a patient has had the
virus for four to five days, according to the European Centre for Disease
Prevention and Control.
How Is Chikungunya Treated?
There is no cure for Chikungunya. As with the flu virus and
other similar viruses, treatment focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable
and pain-free as possible. Over-the-counter medications that do not contain
aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and
acetaminophen, are usually recommended. A doctor may prescribe pain medications
if pain is severe.
There is not yet a vaccine to protect against the chikugunya
virus. Prevention involves reducing the risk of mosquito bites.
To prevent mosquito bites, you can take the following steps:
- Avoid sources of standing water, such as
stagnant ponds or even flowerpots that have collected rain.
- Use screens, windows, and doors to keep
mosquitoes from coming into your home. You also can sleep with mosquito netting
over your bed to keep mosquitoes from biting you while you are asleep.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when
- Apply insect repellants that contain DEET,
picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol to protect
against mosquitoes. Apply this repellant after any sunscreen.
- Treat your clothes with permethrin or purchase
permethrin-treated clothes to protect against mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes tend to bite during the day, so you may wish to avoid
spending extended amounts of time outdoors during the day in areas where
chikungunya is common.
It is important to take these precautions when traveling to
areas of the world where chikungunya is more common. If you do become ill after
travel, seek immediate medical help and inform your physician of your previous