What is chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a virus disease that spreads in humans through the bite of mosquitoes. Although not considered contagious, chikungunya is also transmitted through contact with the contaminated individual’s blood.
Chikungunya is today spread across as many as 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the U.S. While the disease isn’t fatal, it is known to increase joint pain and cause a lot of weakness.
One of the biggest chikungunya symptoms is a fever that can last for more than weeks and months. Almost similar to dengue fever, the symptoms start occurring a few days after a mosquito bite. Some of the common symptoms that have been noticed across different countries include:
- Very high and lasting fever
- Joint pain
- Rashes on the skin
- Vomiting and nausea
- Muscle pain
- Swelling around the joints
Some of the less common symptoms include:
- Heat rush
- Maculopapular rashes like measles
Who is at Risk?
Chikungunya risk factors depend upon the living conditions, state of health, and vulnerability to the disease. Certain red flags for when an individual might be at risk are:
- People living in areas where they are prone to mosquito bites and unhygienic conditions
- People exposing their skin to open areas where mosquitoes can bite
- Places where standing water is stored for a long time for the mosquito to breed
Chikungunya cause can be traced to people either getting mosquito bites or through contact with people who have already been infected by the virus. As the disease does not transmit otherwise, the disease is often caused by having unhygienic or mosquito prone areas around the house or office. This can include standing water in the house like water pots, coolers, drains, etc, or dirty areas like garbage corners, etc where the mosquitoes fly a lot.
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How is chikungunya diagnosed?
Chikungunya diagnosis depends on the tests one undertakes when they visit the doctor. The symptoms are much like dengue and malaria but the identification of the virus and chikungunya reasons makes the difference.
- Physical examination – The doctor examines the symptoms of the person infected and understands if it is a viral infection.
- Blood tests – Blood samples are collected for the chikungunya test and detect the presence of the virus and the form of it. Although the symptoms are similar to dengue, the identification of chikungunya helps undertake the treatment according to the infection. It is important here to rule of dengue as dengue has a mortality rate of 50% as compared to chikungunya i.e. 0.1%
How is chikungunya treated?
Chikungunya treatment should be initiated at the earliest. Although the virus isn’t fatal, it can lead to weakness, severe disease, and disablement. While the fever is known to go off within a few weeks of starting the treatment, joint pain often stays for longer. Often patients have reported joint pain even after a year of chikungunya infection.
As there are no specific drugs or vaccines been developed against the virus, doctors recommend plenty of fluids and rest for the patients infected.
- Chikungunya medicine – over the counter medications like naproxen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc are prescribed by the doctor to ease fever and control the joint pain of the person infected.
- Fluids for dehydration – Plenty of fluids like juices, oral rehydration salt, etc are recommended to hydrate and boost body energy
- Rest and heal – Patients with chikungunya infection tend to get weak and fatigued, and hence plenty of rest is advised to heal
How can chikungunya be prevented?
As the major mode of contamination of the virus is through mosquitoes, one of the major ways for chikungunya prevention is to save oneself from mosquito bites. Here are some of the preventive measures one can take:
- Using insect or mosquito repellent with DEET to save from mosquito bite outdoors
- Maintain hygiene and cleanliness around the house and area of work
- Wearing full sleeves and full-length clothes to keep the whole body covered
- Staying indoors or under-protected environment after evenings
- Using mosquito coils, insecticide vaporizers, etc to keep mosquito away from home
- Avoiding to travel around areas that are more prone to chikungunya virus
- Restraining from contacting people who have been infected with chikungunya virus
- Avoiding water to collect or stand still in or around the house