Chikungunya

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What is it

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes1. The disease mostly occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent1. Although an infection is often non-fatal, infected individuals may experience debilitating joint pain along with other symptoms including fever2. The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue and zika, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where they are common2.

What are the symptoms

The majority of people infected with Chikungunya virus will develop some degree of symptoms. Symptoms typically appear 3 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito2. While symptoms may be severe, the disease does not often result in death2.

Most common symptoms2:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain

Other symptoms include2:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Rash

Most patients recover within a week2. People at risk for more severe disease include newborns, older adults, and people with medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease2. In some cases joint pain may persist for months2.

Who is at risk

The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for becoming infected with Chikungunya1. The disease mostly occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent1.

How is it spread

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people through mosquito bites3. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. Chikungunya virus is most often spread to other people by the Aedes mosquitoes1. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus. They bite during the day and at night.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted rarely from mother to newborn around the time of birth3. There are no documented cases of infants being infected with Chikungunya virus through breastfeeding3.

How is it prevented

No vaccine exists to prevent Chikungunya virus infection or disease4. Travellers can prevent Chikungunya virus infection by preventing mosquito bites with a combination of the following methods4:

  • Use air conditioning, window/door screens or a mosquito bed net to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when weather permits
  • Use of insect repellents that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or para-menthane-diol for long lasting protection
  • Reducing the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from flowerpots or buckets

How is it treated

There is no specific treatment for Chikungunya infection, only supportive care to relieve symptoms2.

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain
  • Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding)

If you have Chikungunya, prevent mosquito bites for the first week of your illness to prevent the transmission of the virus to mosquitoes that can then infect other people2. Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. for further information regarding Chikungunya and immunization, please speak with your healthcare provider.

REFERENCES

  1. World Health Organization. Chikungunya (2017). http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya Virus. About Chickenpox (2015). https://www.cdc.gov/Chikungunya/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya Virus. Transmission (2015). https://www.cdc.gov/Chikungunya/transmission/index.html
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya Virus. Prevention (2015). https://www.cdc.gov/Chikungunya/prevention/index.html
  5. Public Health Agency of Canada. Chikungunya Virus: Pathogen Safety Data Sheet – Infectious Substances (2011). http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/Chikungunya-eng.php