In this article we will look at:
- What is chikungunya?
- How does chikungunya occur?
- What are the symptoms of chikungunya? How is chikungunya diagnosed?
- What are the complications of chikungunya?
- What is the treatment for chikungunya?
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What is chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease, very similar to dengue. The mosquitoes which spread it are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes acquire the virus when they feed on an infected person. The virus spreads in the system of the mosquito and reaches its salivary glands. Soon after, when the mosquito feeds on a person, it infects him.
The infection lasts for 2 to 12 days.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you need to consult your family physician or a general physician immediately:
- continuous high fever (above 38.5 degree Celsius)
- debilitating joint pain and redness or soreness in the joint areas
- rashes on the skin
- sensitivity to light
How does chikungunya occur?
Once the Aedes mosquito bites a person suffering from chikungunya, the chikungunya virus enters the mosquito’s system. After getting infected when the mosquito feeds on another person, the virus gets transmitted to the person.
The virus travels through his body and spreads to various glands in the body. It enters the bloodstream and causes inflammation of the blood vessels, causing them to swell and leak.
The chikungunya virus usually targets joints, muscles, skin, and less frequently, the liver, kidneys, eyes and the central nervous system.
The chikungunya virus mainly infects the muscle cells of the body. Once it infects a muscle cell, it keeps reproducing till the cell dies and then the viruses move onto a new cell.
If you contract this disease you may experience severe muscle pains, joint pains, fever and rash.
What are the symptoms of chikungunya? How is chikungunya diagnosed?
The symptoms of chikungunya include:
- High fever
- Severe muscle and joint pain
- Severe headache
- Rash on the skin due to damaged blood vessels
- Enlarged painful lymph node in the neck
- Sore throat
- Painful abdominal cramps
- Cold fingers and toes
Chikungunya symptoms can often be confused with the symptoms of dengue. However, certain symptoms such as debilitating joint pains are unique only to chikungunya. In fact, it is said dengue plus arthritis is equal to chikungunya.
In dengue, the muscle pain is very noticeable.
A special blood test known as ELISA blood test (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) is done to confirm the presence of chikungunya virus in a patient. During the test, if IgM antibodies are found (which can last up to one year in the blood) it confirms the presence of chikungunya virus in the body.
These antibodies reveal the presence of the chikungunya virus.
What are the complications of chikungunya?
Some complications of chikungunya include:
- neurological imbalances
- myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle
- ocular disease or eye disease (uveitis, retinitis)
- jaundice caused by liver damage
- acute renal disease when kidneys get affected
- severe bullous lesions
- neurological diseases, such as meningoencephalitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, myelitis, or cranial nerve palsies
What is the treatment for chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a self-remitting illness. There is no particular medication or treatment available for chikungunya.
The doctor may advise you to take plenty of rest, fluids, and provide you painkillers. Even while prescribing pain-killers, paracetamol is recommended for treating the pain and fever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are never prescribed.
The usual treatment for the severe form of chikungunya consists of:
- Providing Intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement
- Monitoring blood pressure
- Blood transfusion to replace blood loss, if any
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Chikungunya cases high in South India
In India, most of the reported cases have been from Delhi. However, the number of people exposed to the Chikungunya virus is very high in Southern India. Atleast 44% of the people in South India have been exposed to the Chikungunya virus. Most of them did not show any symptoms or were not diagnosed properly.
Women more affected
Chikungunya seems to affect women more than men.
It is seen to affect individuals of different age groups, however, the most severe form of this disease affects those above 65 years of age. It can be fatal for them. Children are also easily affected by the severe form of this disease.
Can be fatal in certain cases
Chikungunya may prove to be fatal for people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and thalassemia.
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