Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to individuals by an infected mosquito. This disease is also transmitted by the same mosquito that is responsible for dengue which is known as aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. As chikungunya presents symptoms similar to dengue, individuals can often be misdiagnosed with dengue particularly in places where it is common. This condition can either be acute or chronic depending on the individual. The severe joint pain is the most common symptom of chikungunya. As there is no vaccine available for chikungunya, the only effective method of prevention is the protection against the mosquito bites.
Chikungunya is transmitted from one infected individual to another by the mosquito bites. The mosquito responsible for the transmission of chikungunya virus is primarily present in the tropics. These mosquitos are also active in the daytime continuing to bite although they appear to be at peak in the early morning and late afternoon. Once exposed to the virus from the mosquito bite, the illness usually occurs after 2 to 12 days. Rarely, the transmission from mother to child can occur around the time of the birth and also possible with blood transfusion.
Individuals affected with chikungunya exhibit abrupt onset of fever and joint pain which can be debilitating that can continue for a few days or weeks. Other symptoms include muscle pain, fatigue, rash, nausea and headaches. Additional symptoms can include complications of the eye, heart, gastrointestinal and neurological problems. Less commonly evident symptoms include loss of taste and ulcers. Although recovery usually is possible, some of the individuals may experience joint pain that can continue for few months or even years. Although serious complications are not common, the condition can deteriorate particularly among the children, pregnant women and can actually cause the death of the elderly individuals.
Some of the clinical tests used for the evaluation of chikungunya include the serological tests such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays that can detect the IgM and IgG anti- chikungunya antibodies. Individuals suspected of chikungunya exhibiting symptoms within the first week may be tested by both the serological and virological methods.
There is no specific treatment or antiviral medications available for chikungunya. As the body’s immune system usually can fight off the illness, there is generally no need for concern. However, the treatment is usually focused in relieving the symptoms that are evident such as joint pain and medications to reduce the fever. It is important that the affected individual gets plenty of rest and prevent dehydration by taking plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration therapy may be required for individuals suffering from fever which is particularly important in hot climate. Most of the cases usually feel better within a few weeks although the joint pain may persist for months.