What is Chikungunya? This is a viral disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It is a self-limiting disease, meaning there is no specific medicine to treat the virus. There are currently no vaccines to prevent it either. It usually occurs in outbreaks. Currently there is an outbreak in the Coastal region of Kenya.
Is infection by the Chikungunya virus fatal? The disease rarely causes death.
How is the Chikungunya virus transmitted? The Aedes mosquito transmits the virus. It bites during the day and preferably outdoors. The mosquito also facilitates person-to-person transmission of the virus.
What are the symptoms of infection?
- Sudden onset of fever
- Severe joint pain
- Muscle pain
The symptoms usually start 3–7 days after the mosquito bite and lasts a few days. A few people would have joint pains extending for a few weeks. The symptoms are similar to those of Dengue fever and sometimes the outbreaks can occur at the same time. Symptoms are worst in newborns, in the elderly (>65 years) and in people with chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease.
How is diagnosis made? Diagnosis is mainly clinical, meaning it would be made based on symptoms of the infection in the context of a known outbreak. A blood test confirms the diagnosis. At the same time, the doctor may want to exclude diseases with similar symptoms like malaria or dengue fever.
Is there treatment for Chikungunya disease? There is no specific treatment for the virus. However, the doctor would focus on treating the symptoms by prescribing pain relievers, fever relievers and medicine to help prevent vomiting. Fluids are given in case of dehydration.
How to prevent infection:
Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites by clearing bushes and draining pools of water around human dwelling. Minimize skin exposure to mosquitoes (long sleeved clothes, trousers) and use mosquito repellent skin products. Sleep under treated nets including during daytime naps. Use window and door screens. People suspected to have Chikungunya should be kept away from mosquitos to prevent infecting others through person-to-person mosquito bites.