What is Chikungunya?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus endemic to tropical areas of Asia and Africa. The disease was first extensively documented in the 1950s, and it is a serious problem in some tropical regions, with outbreaks tending to take on a cyclical nature which can cause the disease to come and go. No cure or vaccine is available, making the best practice avoidance of situations in which an infection could occur. Several laboratories are working on treatments or vaccines which could be used to manage or eliminate chikungunya.

The symptoms of chikungunya are very similar to those of dengue fever. Within four days of being infected, the patient develops a fever, and he or she often experiences a rash, headaches, and sensitivity to light. As the fever fades, the patient develops joint pain which can persist for years after the infection. Patients can experience lifelong problems which can result in a contorted posture as a result of damage to the joints. The joint pain is also extremely severe, which can cause permanent disability and debilitation.


Because no cure is available, treatment focuses on managing the symptoms. Managing the fever is especially important, as high fevers can be very dangerous, and patients require careful monitoring to make sure that their temperatures do not spike. Various medications can be used to manage the associated joint pain, and some patients benefit from physical therapy and alternative medical techniques such as massage to ease joint pain. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) appears to be contraindicated, as it can cause complications.

This condition can be diagnosed with a blood test to confirm the presence of the virus. Diagnosis is important, as it is important to confirm which disease is causing a patient's symptoms, because the treatment approach may be different depending on the disease involved. It can take several days for test results to come back, and testing is too expensive for some regional clinics to perform on a regular basis, which can complicate medical treatment and proper care for patients.

Prevention of chikungunya requires avoidance of mosquito bites. In addition to preventing chikungunya infection, avoidance of bites will also prevent infection with a number of other harmful diseases such as malaria which are also carried by mosquitoes, making it a good practice in general. Mosquitoes can be controlled with the use of barriers like window screens and tents over beds, along with chemical means to deter mosquitoes such as citronella candles and mosquito spray.



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