Chikungunya is a serious viral disease causing persistent joint pain, body pain, fever and rashes. It may take months together for complete recovery from this disease. Mosquitoes are carriers of viruses that cause Chikungunya and they infect the humans with virus while biting. The infected person develops immunity in his body for this disease and hence he/she may not get this infection again.
Chikungunya History :
History of Chikungunya dates back to 1952 where the first case was detected in African region called Makonde Plateau. In Makonde language, the term “Cikungunya” means which bends up. People affected with this disease usually walk in stooped posture due to pain and inflammation of joints. Initially there was plenty of misconception about this disease and finally it was discovered that carrier mosquito (Aedes Aegypti) is responsible for causing Chikungunya.
Number of cases was reported in many regions of Asia and African during 1960 and 1980. Even now cases of Chikungunya are prevalent in India and under-developed regions of Indonesia and Maldives. In the year 2006, there was a large outbreak of this disease in France leaving many deaths and thousands of infected people. Thousands of cases were reported in Delhi, capital of India in 2010.
Chikungunya Causes :
Chikungunya is caused by member of Alphavirus family which is basically arthropod born virus. This virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of mosquito Aedes Aegypti that carries virus. This is the same species of mosquito that causes yellow fever and is largely found in many Asian countries and in tropical regions. Chikungunya is primarily caused during day time bite of Aedes Aegypti mosquito and hence you should take preventive measures for getting rid of mosquito.
Stagnated water and contaminated water is the main cause for increase in mosquito population. CHIKV virus is carried by mosquito which in turn transmits the infection to humans while biting. Chikungunya virus is predominantly reported in Asian countries of tropical origin. In addition to Aedes aegypti, another mosquito Aedes albopictus is also known to carry the virus causing this fever transmitting to human population.
Over years, these mosquitoes have equipped itself for biting thousands of human population effectively. Both urban and rural areas are equally affected by mosquito bite. The eggs of this type of mosquito can stay alive up to a period of one year and it needs only minimal water and temperature to live long. The virus causing Chikungunya belongs to Togaviridae family and they are not capable of infecting humans directly. Hence they choose mosquito as agents of carrier for transmitting the infection. A mosquito (carrying chikungunya virus) would first bite an infected person and from there it carries the infection biting thousands of people transmitting the infection easily.
Chikungunya Symptoms :
Some of the initial symptoms of cikungunya are chills and fever followed by joint pain. Some people may develop headache and body pain during the course of the day. Fever can go as high as 104 Celsius. There are instances where people may develop skin rashes with red small papules on the skin. Chikungunya is distinguished with joint pain which starts with pain in the knee subsequently spreading to other joints of the body. It becomes difficult to differentiate chikungunya from Dengue or flu where the symptoms are almost the same. Initial symptom can take anywhere from 2-12 days after mosquito bite, and on the second day the patient would develop acute joint pain.
For some people symptoms can be severe disturbing their quality of life. Most of the symptoms would gradually reduce within a week excepting joint pain which can remain for weeks together and even for months. The only fortunate thing about Chikungunya is a person would develop immunity in his body once he/she develops this disease and is not likely to get this infection again in his life.
Chikungunya Diagnosis :
- Your doctor would complete his physical exam before asking any questions. He may ask about the place you have traveled recently and about the mosquito menace in your area.
- Chikungunya can become difficult to be diagnosed unless blood test for ELISA is done. Most of the symptoms like fever, body pain, headache and rash are the same for Dengue fever and malaria. Your doctor would check for joint pain for several days to assess this disease clinically.
- Blood serum is checked for four fold HI and if the test result is positive chikungunya is confirmed. Within 5-8 days of getting infected the test can be positive if the virus is present.
- Antibodies would be seen in the body for many months after infection and hence IgM antibodies are yet another way to diagnose chikungunya.
- RT-PCR test can be done for detecting the virus nucleic acid in the blood serum.
Chikungunya Treatment :
No suitable antiviral drugs are available for treating chikungunya. The body’s own immune system would trigger to produce antibodies which fight against the growth of virus. Treatment can be given only for managing the symptoms. Paracetemol/Tylenol and Ibuprofen can be taken for reducing symptoms of fever and body pain. Aspirin is suitable for adults but should not be given for children. The affected person should take complete rest. He/she should keep the body well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids avoiding carbonated drinks and coffee/tea. Honey mixed in lukewarm water can be taken generously.
For joint pain and rigidity mild exercise or movement of joints is recommended. The intensity of the symptoms would reduce after 3 days and in many cases only joint pain persists for weeks. Recovery is possible within a week for healthy people and elderly and immune-compromised people can take more time for complete recovery.
- Alternative Treatment :
Herbal treatment and Ayurvedic treatment are capable of treating the symptoms of Chikungunya.
Tips For Chikungunya Prevention :
No vaccine has been discovered for chikungunya.
- Hence preventive measures can be taken for mosquito bites. Infection can be passed on from one person to another by mosquito which carries the infected virus and transmits it to another healthy person while biting.
- Controlling mosquito menace is the best possible way to prevent chikungunya.
- Keep your house well protected by using mosquito nets and mosquito coils. Don’t keep stagnated water near the house since it gives room for mosquito breeding. Use long sleeves and fully covered clothing during night and use picaridin or other repellents for removing mosquito. Creams and lotions are available for topical application which creates specific smell distracting the mosquito from biting.