In a country with a tropical climate, like India, monsoons bring respite from the sweltering heat and herald the arrival of various infectious diseases.
The causative agents of these diseases find the monsoon conditions to be a perfect breeding ground, and unless you are careful, it is far too easy to fall ill during the season.
It is better to be aware of the common monsoon illnesses, take all possible preventive steps, and avoid having to go to the doctor or to hospitals, which are already overcrowded due to the ongoing pandemic.
Let’s answer all your questions about one such disease, chikungunya, in this article.
1. What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya (चिकनगुनिया in Hindi) is an infectious disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes carrying the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Two types of mosquitoes, Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti, spread this virus and mainly bite during the day.
The term “chikungunya” is derived from the Makonde language and means “to become contorted/bent”, referring to the contorted postures of individuals affected with the joint pain and arthritis associated with this disease.
2. What Are Chikungunya’s Symptoms?
The symptoms for chikungunya appear a few days after being bitten by a mosquito.
Fever, which lasts for days and may go as high as 40 °C (104 °F)
Joint pain, which could be severe, and may last for weeks
3. Is Chikungunya Contagious?
Chikungunya disease is caused by the Chikungunya virus, which is transmitted to people by mosquitoes. It does not spread by human-to-human contact and is generally not considered contagious.
However, there have been rare reports of the virus being transmitted through contact with an infected individual’s blood.
4. How is Chikungunya Diagnosed?
The symptoms of chikungunya become apparent 3 to 7 days after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus. However, the symptoms are similar to that of dengue and Zika virus disease, other mosquito-borne infectious diseases seen in the monsoons. Thus, a blood test is the only definite way to diagnose chikungunya.
5. How is Chikungunya Treated?
There is no known treatment or drug for chikungunya. Doctors advise resting, treating the symptoms by drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking over-the-counter medicines to reduce the fever and pain.
Newborns, older adults (above the age of 65), and people with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease are at a higher risk for severe infection and should consult a doctor immediately on suspicion of chikungunya.
6. Is There a Vaccine for Chikungunya?
There is presently no vaccine against the Chikungunya virus.
7. How Can You Prevent Chikungunya?
Since chikungunya spreads through the bite of mosquitoes, the best way to prevent it is to protect yourself from mosquito bites by:
Using insect repellents.
Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Installing mosquito screens on windows and doors.
Staying indoors and using air conditioning, as much as possible.
Not letting water stagnate in areas around your house to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
8. Can You Get Chikungunya Twice?
No, if you get infected and recover from chikungunya, you will likely have life-long immunity against the Chikungunya virus due to the antibodies (proteins produced by your immune system against the virus) developed.
9. What is the Difference Between Dengue, Zika Virus Disease, And Chikungunya?
Dengue, Zika virus disease, and chikungunya are all viral infections caused by Aedes mosquitoes. However, they are caused by 3 different viruses, namely the dengue (DENV), chikungunya (CHIKV), and Zika (ZIKV) virus, respectively. These diseases share a similarity in symptoms and can be misdiagnosed in areas where they are common.
Some similarities and differences in their symptoms are:
It is important to diagnose chikungunya in a patient correctly, and rule out the possibility of the other 2 diseases, so that the severity of the disease, and the correct course of treatment, can be determined.
10. What Are The Long-Term Effects of Chikungunya?
Joint pain is the most common long-term symptom, which persists in people even after complete recovery from chikungunya. Chronic joint pain can persist for several months or years, particularly in older patients.
Remember to take all precautions to stay away from mosquitoes, look after your well-being, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy this monsoon. Do not ignore worrying symptoms, and consult your physician immediately.
1. Who.int. 2021. Chikungunya fact sheet. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chikungunya> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
2. Cdc.gov. 2021. Chikungunya virus | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/index.html> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
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