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Chikungunya

Chikungunya

Introduction

Chikungunya is a disease that is caused by the chikungunya virus or CHIKV. The infection can cause fever and severe joint pain. The symptoms begin to occur in 2 to 12 days after the exposure to the infection. The symptoms subside in a week but, in many cases, the joint pain can takea long to subside which can be months at times. Very young and elderlypatients or patients with other health issues can suffer a more serious form of this disease.

Cause and Transmission of Infection:

Chikungunya virus is the cause of the occurrence of chikungunya infection. The virus is spread by two kinds of mosquitoes namely, Aedes aegypti, as well as Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes generally bite during daytime. Not just humans, the infection may circulate among animals like rodents and birds.

Once gaining an entry into the body of humans, the virus begins to multiply. When an uninfected mosquito bites the person with the chikungunya virus, the mosquito gets infected.

Chikungunya infection is not considered to be a contagious infection as there is absolutely no person to person transfer of the virus. An infected person can never directly transfer the infection to other humans. To infect an individual, the virus needs to pass through the mosquito first. Hence, outbreaks of chikungunya infection occur during the monsoon weather.

The infection is generally not transmitted from a mother to her baby. There have been some rare incidences of transmission of the infection by blood transfusions from a person infected with chikungunya virus.

Prevalence of Chikungunya Infection

The first ever infection caused by the chikungunya virus was reported in East Africa in the year 1952.

Chikungunya is prevalent is around 60 countries covering Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and South America, but rarely any cases are reported in the United States of America.

In the United States of America, only 175 chikungunya cases have been registered since the year 2016 and most people who were affected were those who had visited the affected areas.

The infection is relatively common in Asia and Africa. Since the year 2000, there had been the reports of the chikungunya outbreak in North and South America, as well as Europe.

Symptom of Chikungunya

The symptoms of chikungunya develop within three to seven days of the mosquito bite. The symptoms of chikungunya are:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the joints
  • Swelling

Other symptoms that develop in the affected person include:

  • Pain in muscles
  • Headache
  • Skin rash: In about 40% to 50% of the cases of chikungunya infection, a maculopapular rash occurs. It occurs 2 to 5 days after the occurrence of the major symptoms
  • Digestive symptoms: The digestive symptoms of chikungunya infection include nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, or diarrhoea
  • Fatigue interfering with the regular activities of the person

In most patients the symptoms subside in around seven days. But in many cases, the joint pain lasts for a period of months.

As the symptoms are like dengue fever, many times, the doctors confuse the symptoms of chikungunya infection as dengue or zika fever. This is because of the involvement of the same mosquito in spreading both the infections. After suffering from the infection once, the person develops a life-long immunity against the disease.

Complications of Chikungunya

Though rare, chikungunya infection can lead to certain complications. The complications of the infection are:

  • Inflammation of nerves, brain, kidney, skin, as well as the heart
  • A temporary damage to the liver is reported in some cases
  • Neurological disorders: Inflammation of nerves is another complication that occurs in association with chikungunya infection. The complications include Guillain Barr syndrome, flaccid paralysis, palsies, neuropathy, and meningoencephalitis
  • Eye problems: A rare symptom is the presence of inflammation in the eyes. The inflammation occurs in the form of uveitis or iridocyclitis, as well as retinal lesions.
  • Patients who are more than 65 years of age or those who have some medical issue like diabetes, cardiac issue, or blood pressure, as well as the neonates, are more susceptible to a severe infection and complications

Death due to the infection is rare.

Diagnosis of Chikungunya

The diagnosis of the infection is primarily done based on blood tests. The doctors advise the patients to undergo blood antibody tests to confirm the diagnosis.

As the symptoms of chikungunya are like those of dengue fever, it is necessary to carry out the blood antibody test to distinguish between chikungunya infection and dengue fever.

Treatment of Chikungunya

There is no vaccine or medicine that could specifically target the chikungunya virus and treat the chikungunya infection. The doctors prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms.

Generally, the patients begin to feel better and recover on their own during time.Most symptoms improve in a week. The only symptom that takes long to subside is muscular and joint pain whichcan take months to go.

The treatment of chikungunya involves:

  • Taking rest
  • Taking ample of fluids
  • Taking medications that could offer symptomatic relief. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen is generally prescribed to get relief from the symptoms of the infection. Aspirin is not indicated as it can enhance the risk of bleeding complications.
  • In cases of chronic arthritis, ribavirin is indicated.

Prevention of Chikungunya

Chikungunya can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. Here are some effective measures to avoid mosquito bites.

  • Mosquitoes generally breed in standing water. You must not allow the mosquitoes to breed. Do not let water to accumulate anywhere. Empty all the containers that have standing water. Change the water of birdbaths, flower pots, etc. regularly.
  • Always wear clothes like long-sleeved shirts or tee-shirts, and long pants that cover most of the body to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Use mosquito repellents.
  • Sleep under mosquito nets.

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