Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) is a viral disease transmitted to humans by the bites of infected Aede...s aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are found across the globe. First described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952, the virus then spread to Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
Originally believed to be a “tropical” disease, experts were surprised when an outbreak occurred in northeastern Italy in 2007. Now it has spread farther—to 14 Caribbean island countries since it was first detected on the island of St. Martin in December 2013. On May 1, 2014, the Caribbean Public Health Authority declared it an epidemic, with 4,108 probable cases across the region.
Get the Facts: Chikungunya Symptoms and Treatments
Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Chikungunya
The most common symptoms of chikungunya are acute, high fever and intense joint pain. The infected person may also experience headaches, muscle pain, swollen joints, and/or a rash.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya infection should be considered as a possibility in anyone who develops a high fever and joint pain, and who has traveled to the location of an active outbreak within the previous three to seven days.
A blood test is used to diagnose chikungunya and to differentiate it from dengue, a more serious viral infection, which is also transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. Outbreaks of dengue usually occur in tropical urban areas, according to the CDC.
Even though chikungunya symptoms can be severe, the disease is rarely fatal, unlike dengue, which can be lethal if not treated in a timely manner. Most patients with chikungunya begin feeling better within a week; a few may experience joint pain for several months. Some cases result in persistent arthritis symptoms. People at risk for more severe cases of the disease include newborns, adults over the age of 65, and patients with underlying medical conditions.
There is no cure for chikungunya, and no vaccine to prevent it, so treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. An infected person needs to rest, drink lots of fluids, and take medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain until the symptoms fade.