Chikungunya VirusDr. Jorge Parada
- National Pest Management Association
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Information on Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Chikungunya, a viral infection transmitted to
humans by infected mosquitoes, originated in southeast Africa and
was first described in Tanzania in 1952. Subsequently, it has
spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and has become well
established in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and islands
of the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
More recently, Chikungunya has been reported in at least 15
Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola (Haiti & Santo
Domingo), as well as French Guiana on mainland South America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), as of June 10, a total of 39 chikungunya cases have been
reported from U.S. states and territories. One locally transmitted
case has been reported from Puerto Rico. All other cases occurred
in travelers returning from affected areas in the Caribbean or
Asia. To date, no local transmission has been identified in the
continental United States.
The mosquitos that carry the Chikungunya virus (aedes aegypti
and aedes albopictus) can bite during the day and at night, both
indoors and outdoors, and often live around buildings in urban
Typical symptoms of Chikungunya infection include the rapid
onset of severe joint pains (especially in the hands and feet) and
fever. In fact, the name "Chikungunya" derives from a word in the
Kimakonde language of south east Africa, meaning "to become
contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with
joint pain. Symptoms start four to eight days after the mosquito
bite (range from two to 12 days). Infected persons can also have
headache, muscle pain, rash and joint swelling. Generally, symptoms
resolve after one week, although some people may experience
long-term joint pain. Chikungunya is generally not fatal, but the
painful symptoms have led people to say "It won't kill you, but it
may make you wish you were dead!"
Because there is no specific antiviral drug treatment for
Chikungunya, physicians direct patients to use over the counter
analgesics and medication to control fever, and to get plenty of
rest and fluids.
Several methods can be used for diagnosis. If you develop
the symptoms of Chikungunya and have recently traveled, see your
doctor. Your doctor may order blood tests to look for Chikungunya
or other similar diseases.
Since a vaccine to prevent Chikungunya does not exist, it is
best to try and avoid infection in the first place.
As the Caribbean is a popular vacation spot for many Americans,
avoiding travel may not be a realistic or desirable option. Rather,
travelers are advised to take a number of precautions when staying
in countries where Chikungunya is endemic.
Travelers should don protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts,
long pants, hats) that is treated with insect repellent. When
spending time outdoors, travelers should use insect repellents
containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535, on
When choosing a hotel, ensure the rooms are equipped with fully
functioning air conditioning systems, as well as door and window
screens. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets afford good protection,
as do mosquito coils or other insecticide vaporizers to reduce
contact with mosquitoes indoors, especially in high risk areas.
During outbreaks of Chikungunya - or if mosquito populations
surge - community-wide insect/vector control programs may be
activated and travelers should heed these warnings.
Finally, patients who are diagnosed with Chikungunya should
avoid additional exposure to mosquitoes to help prevent the further
spread of the virus to other mosquitoes and subsequently to other
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