Chikungunya virus: A virus that causes a disease resembling dengue fever, seen mainly in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. The Chikungunya virus is an arbovirus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The most prominent frequent feature is severe arthritis with joint pain (arthralgia), and swelling. Chikungunya fever was first described in epidemic form in East Africa in 1952-1953. The virus is arthropod-borne (it is therefore an arbovirus) and belongs to the family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus. Human infections are acquired by the bite of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, and epidemics are sustained by human-mosquito-human transmission. This epidemic cycle is similar to that of dengue and urban yellow fever.
Illness from Chikungunya virus infection is characterized by sudden onset of signs and symptoms of:
- chills and fever,
- joint pain, and
Symptoms begin 3-7 days after being bitten by the mosquito carrying the virus. In contrast to dengue, chikungunya is characterized by a shorter feverish episode, by persistent joint pain in some cases, and by the absence of fatalities.
The Chikungunya virus is not contagious (it cannot be spread directly from person to person).
Treatments are directed at relieving the symptoms, and there is no cure. Most people will feel better within a week, but some may have joint pain that lasts for months.
There is no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya virus infection.
Chikungunya in Swahili means "that which bends up" referring to the stooped posture of patients afflicted with the severe joint pain of this disease. Pronounced chik-n-gunya with the accent on the first syllable.