Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne, viral disease that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The species of mosquitoes that are responsible for spreading the virus are known as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes bite an infected person and in turn become the carriers of the chikungunya virus, which is then further spread to every uninfected person who receives the mosquito bite. These mosquitoes generally bite during the day, though they are found in well-lit areas even during the night time. This disease causes severe joint and muscle pain, fever and severe headache but is usually not fatal except for some rare cases. The symptoms of chikungunya begin to show post three to seven days of the mosquito bite, and except for joint pain, the other symptoms usually fade away within a few days. Chikungunya is generally not contagious, though in rare cases, it can be transmitted via contact with infected blood.

Causes of Chikungunya

Chikungunya is caused by the bite of Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species of mosquitoes, which usually are active during the day. These mosquitoes tend to carry the virus which is transmitted to a human through their bite; when an uninfected mosquito bites the infected human, it becomes the carrier of the virus thereby spreading the disease. These mosquitoes typically bite outdoor; however, Aedes aegypti can bite indoors too.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

The symptoms of Chikungunya usually set off after 3-7 from the bite of the infected mosquito. However, in some cases, the symptoms might even show after two days or might not appear until 12 days. Thus, it is always best to confirm via a blood test. That said, some of the common symptoms that can help identify the Chikungunya disease are:

  • Very high fever (more than 104 °F)
  • Extreme joint and muscle pain
  • Intense headache
  • Severe rash
  • Swollen joints
  • Bleeding gums
  • Noose bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

In most cases, the symptoms last for a week and patients tend to feel better thereafter. However, in some cases, joint pain may persist for weeks or months. Chikungunya is not fatal but the symptoms can be severe. Some people who are at more risk of infection include newborn babies infected at birth, people of or more than the age of 65 years, as well as people with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems. The symptoms of chikungunya are very often confused with dengue or zika virus, though it is confirmed via a blood test before initiating treatment. 

Treatment of Chikungunya

Chikungunya is rarely fatal; however, the symptoms can be severe and disabling. In most cases, the recovery period lasts for a week, but joint pain still lingers on for weeks or months in some cases. There is no set cure or medication for chikungunya, and treatment depends on case-to-case and is directed at relieving the symptoms. Some of the common over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and fever include:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Paracetamol

That said, more importantly, the doctors will suggest getting plenty of rest and drinking a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration – to offset the symptoms of Chikungunya.

Moreover, it is important to remember that the virus stays in the human body at least for five to seven days and during this time, if an uninfected mosquito bites the infected human, it becomes the carrier of the virus too; hence, the patient must stay away from any mosquito bites until complete recovery. 

Prevention of Chikungunya

As of today, there is no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. However, the most effective method to prevent the virus is to stay away from the source of it – the bite of the mosquito. Some of the steps that can prevent the bite of the infected mosquito are:

  • Using insect repellents that contain DEET
  • Wearing light colour clothes that cover the skin completely
  • Staying indoors, especially during early morning and afternoon
  • Using air conditioners
  • Avoiding travelling to areas that are experiencing outbreaks
  • Sleeping under mosquito nets
  • Removing or staying away from all artificial and natural water-filled containers
  • Using mosquito coils or insecticide vaporizers
  • Emptying all overflowing garbage bins
  • Changing the water in the flower vessels timely
  • Using light fragrances
  • Taking a bath daily
  • Keeping the toilet seats down after use
  • Growing lemongrass or marigold (natural mosquito repellents) in the garden  

Complications of Chikungunya

Though rare, some complications that might result from a chikungunya virus if not treated properly are:

  • Uveitis: A form of eye inflammation that affects the middle layer of the eyewall tissue.
  • Retinitis: Inflammation in the retina of the eye
  • Myocarditis: Case of inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Hepatitis: Case of inflammation in the liver
  • Nephritis: Severe case of inflammation of the kidneys
  • Hemorrhage: Unexplained bleeding
  • Meningoencephalitis: Swelling in the brain membrane and connecting tissues
  • Myelitis: Case of inflammation of the spinal cord.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: A rare disease of the nervous system
  • Cranial nerve palsies: Inactivated cranial nerves 

Vaccines of Chikungunya

Currently, there are no vaccines or medications specifically directed to kill or prevent the Chikungunya virus. That said, vaccines are under development in India and the United States of America.

Though not fatal, chikungunya can cause some severe symptoms that last for months or even longer, as well as certain health problems, in rare cases. Thus, it is vital to know about the virus, take steps to prevent it and consult a doctor if any symptoms arise.