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WHAT IS chikungunya ?
Chikungunya (chik-un-GUN-yuh) is a viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes that causes the sudden onset of fever and severe joint pain. Other signs and symptoms may include fatigue, muscle pain, headache and rash. Signs and symptoms of chikungunya usually appear within two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
No vaccine exists to prevent chikungunya fever, and there’s no effective antiviral treatment. However, the disease runs a limited course and rarely causes serious complications. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms with rest, fluids and medications — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) — to relieve joint pain and fever.
The symptoms of chikungunya virus are similar to those of other diseases such as dengue fever. The symptoms normally appear just a few days after a mosquito has bitten an individual. The most common symptoms are:
- Most people infected with chikungunya virus will develop some symptoms.
- Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain.
- Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
- Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling.
- Most patients feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months.
- People at risk for more severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults (≥65 years), and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
- Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Incidentally, both Dengue and Chikungunya are caused by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, two species that are playing havoc in the country. It is transmitted from one person to another with the bite of the female specie of the mosquito. These mosquitoes are known to typically bite during the daylight hours. During the daylight hours, the risk of getting bitten is the highest at two points of time, early morning and late afternoon. Though, typically these mosquitoes are known to bite outdoors, aedes aegypti can also bite indoors.
- Living in areas rich in marshy land: Mosquitoes actively thrive in marshy areas and Aedes Aegypti is no different. People living in such areas stand a higher chance of acquiring Chikungunya.
- Living near construction sites or areas where stagnant water accumulates: Mosquitoes propagate in stagnant water. That is why Chikungunya is rampant in areas where much stagnant water can be found, for e.g. slums, construction sites, etc.
- Weakened immunity: Persons harbouring a lowered resistance to diseases are more at risk of developing a more severe form of the disease.
- Rainy season: Mosquitoes breed and thrive more during the rainy season. Hence, most mosquito-borne ailments including Chikungunya are seen more in the rainy season.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you think you or a family member may have chikungunya, especially if you have recently traveled to an area where there’s an ongoing outbreak. Your doctor may order blood tests to look for chikungunya or similar diseases. If you’re sick with chikungunya, avoiding new mosquito bites will help prevent the virus from spreading.