Contributed by – Healthians team
Just like dengue and malaria, chikungunya is another dreaded mosquito-borne disease. Once considered a disease of tropics, chikungunya has now spread throughout the world and it is in monsoon that most cases are reported. Although not fatal, chikungunya is feared for the joint pain it causes. This chikungunya pain can sometimes last for months and years. The similarity between chikungunya and dengue can sometimes delay diagnosis and treatment. Hence, you should know all about chikungunya virus and its symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment to avoid its severe effects.
What causes Chikungunya
Chikungunya virus is transmitted by the same female mosquitoes that transmit dengue – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The mosquito gets infected when it bites an infected person, then it goes on to bite other people and thereby keeps spreading the virus. An important point for you to note here is that these mosquitoes are known to bite during the day, though risk is highest early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Typically, chikungunya begins with an abrupt fever which is accompanied by joint pains. The joint pain can be debilitating and may last for a few months or years. Finger joints on hands and feet are majorly affected and you may also notice some swelling.
Besides fever and joint pain, other fairly common symptoms of chikungunya are:
- Muscle pain
Only a chikungunya test can help identify the virus since the symptoms are similar to those of dengue and Zika virus disease. If you happen to notice any of the above-stated symptoms then consult a doctor as soon as possible.
[Noticing symptoms of chikungunya? Get tested]
The good news is that chikungunya is rarely fatal. But the complications can be severe and disabling. Most people recover from fever within a week, but joint pain can stay for months or even years. Unfortunately, there’s no chikungunya vaccine available yet. So, for the treatment of chikungunya doctors try to ease its symptoms and may recommend:
- Plenty of rest.
- A lot of fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
- Medications to reduce fever and pain.
Since the transmission of chikungunya is by mosquitoes, the best chikungunya prevention method would involve minimizing contact with mosquitoes. Following steps can help you in that:
- Use mosquito repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin.
- Wear clothes that cover the whole body.
- Use screens on windows and doors.
- Use air conditioning.
- Do not let water get collected in or around your house.
- Sleep under a mosquito net.
- Stay indoors especially during early morning and late afternoon to the extent possible.
- Use mosquito coils in well ventilated spaces.
Most chikungunya patients recover fully, but may experience joint pain for a few months. Additionally, complications of chikungunya, though rare, include:
- Uveitis – Inflammation of the middle layer of tissue in the eye.
- Retinitis – Disease that risks the vision by damaging the retina.
- Myocarditis – Inflammation of the heart muscle.
- Hepatitis – Inflammation of the liver.
- Nephritis – Inflammation of the kidney.
- Haemorrhage- Bleeding
- Meningoencephalitis – Inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membranes.
- Myelitis – Inflammation of the spinal cord.
- Guillain-Barre syndrome – A neurological disorder where the immune system attacks the nervous system.
- Cranial nerve palsies – Decreased or complete loss of the function of the cranial nerve.
Chikungunya may not be fatal, but since its effects can be disabling, it is important that you do everything in your capacity to prevent it. If you believe you might have contracted the virus, then immediately get a chikungunya test done so as to eliminate the possibility of other serious infections like Dengue or Zika virus disease.