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Chikungunya Virus (Chikungunya Infection)

What is Chikungunya virus?

The infection caused by Chikungunya virus is was first described in East Africa in 1952. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and belongs to the family Togaviridae in the genus Alphavirus.

Where is Chikungunya virus most prevalent?

Although Chikungunya virus has been mainly reported in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans, it has spread to the Americas recently. However, you no longer have to travel to a faraway place such as French Polynesia like Lindsay Lohan did in December 2014 to become infected. In 2013 the virus had spread to the Caribbean islands. As of December 2014, 41 countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and North America have had laboratory-confirmed Chikungunya infections.

How does Chikungunya virus spread?

  • Humans are infected when Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes, containing Chikungunya virus, bite humans.
  • The viruses are transmitted during the mosquito bite (blood meal).
  • The viruses then multiply in humans and can then be picked up by other uninfected mosquitoes when they bite infected humans to complete the viral replication cycle.

Is Chikungunya virus infection contagious?

Chikungunya virus infection is not considered to be contagious because there is no direct human to human transfer of Chikungunya viruses, so infected individuals cannot directly transfer the virus to another human because the virus has to pass through a mosquito first. However, outbreaks can occur in populations where a number of both mosquitoes and humans are infected with the virus. Rarely, the virus may be transmitted from the mother to her newborn; also, researchers suggest the virus may possibly be transferred by blood transfusions from an infected individual.

What are Chikungunya virus infection symptoms and signs?

Most people that become infected with the virus will develop some symptoms usually within three to seven days after a bite by an infected mosquito.

The most common symptoms are

  • fever,
  • joint pain, and
  • swelling.

The affected individual also may develop

Most patients feel better in about seven days, but in some individuals the joint pain may last for months. The symptoms are similar to those of another disease, dengue fever, which is also spread by the same mosquitoes.

Rare complications include

Neonates and the elderly (>65 years), especially those with other medical problems, are at highest risk for severe disease and complications

Death is rare and occurs mainly in the elderly.

How do health care professionals diagnose Chikungunya virus infections?

The Chikungunya disease may be diagnosed by blood antibody tests that distinguish between this infection and dengue fever, a similar viral disease, and other diseases.

There is no medicine or vaccine available to specifically treat or prevent Chikungunya virus infections.

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What is the treatment for Chikungunya virus infection?

Medical treatments and home remedies to relive symptoms of Chikungunya virus infections include

  • rest,
  • fluids, and
  • any medicines that might reduce the fever and pain.

Once a person recovers from Chikungunya infection, researchers suggest the person develops life-long immunity to the virus type.

Is it possible to prevent a Chikungunya virus infection?

The best way to prevent Chikungunya infections is to avoid getting mosquito bites.

  • Eliminate areas where mosquitoes breed (emptying containers where water is left standing, for example).
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use insect repellents appropriately.

If you do become infected, you should protect yourself from any further mosquito bites because you can transfer the virus from you to a mosquito and possibly into another person if that mosquito bites another uninfected individual.

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References
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Chikungunya Virus." <http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Chikungunya Virus Information for Health Care Providers." <http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/hc/index.html>.
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