Chikungunya is a viral disease (genus Alphavirus) which is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes – including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The name chikungunya originates from a verb in the Kimakonde language, meaning ‘to become contorted’. This refers to the ‘stooped’ appearance of those suffering with joint pain.
Symptoms appear between 4 and 7 days after the patient has been bitten by the infected mosquito and these include:
- High fever (40°C/ 104°F)
- Joint pain (lower back, ankle, knees, wrists or phalanges)
- Joint swelling
- Muscle pain
Chikungunya is rarely fatal. Symptoms are generally self-limiting and last for 2–3 days. The virus remains in the human system for 5-7 days and mosquitoes feeding on an infected person during this period can also become infected. Chikungunya shares some clinical signs with dengue and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
Chikungunya can be detected using serological tests. Recovery from an infection will confer life-long immunity.
The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localised outbreak in north-eastern Italy, the website added.
Outbreaks have since been recorded in France and Croatia. Most patients recover fully in two to three weeks, but in some cases, joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints, the website says.
According to it, serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognised, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs.
The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.
· Transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
· Causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
· Joint pain is often debilitating and can vary in duration.
· Shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed as dengue in areas where dengue is common.
· There is no cure for the disease. Treatment relieves symptoms.
· The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.
· The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.