Chikungunya is a disease which is best described as a mosquito borne viral disease. It is characterized by a sudden onset of fever accompanied by joint pain. The joint pain is debilitating, but it can usually lasts for few days to weeks. This virus can cause chronic, subacute and acute diseases. Chikungunya can cause gastrointestinal, heart related and neurological complications. In older people, this virus can also cause death. Chikungunya is often misdiagnosed with dengue as the symptoms are somewhat similar. The only difference between chikungunya and dengue is that, the former can circulate with cattle, birds and monkeys, but dengue can only spread through mosquito bites.
How is it transmitted?
Chikungunya is mostly prevalent in America, Europe, Africa and Asia. This virus can be transmitted from human to human by female mosquitoes bites. The mosquito species involved is called Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. These mosquitoes can be found in daylight hours but they are more prevalent in the late afternoon. These species usually feed outdoors but Aedes aegypti usually feed indoors. The symptoms of chikungunya can prolong for 3 to 6 months.
A test called IgM titers is used to diagnose chikungunya. This test usually measures the rising concentration or level of antibodies in the blood. This quantifies the response of the body to fight an active infection. A blood test called RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) is performed. If this test is not available, the specialist usually tests the number of leucocytes present in the blood due to viral infection. The blood count is constantly monitored. If it drops down suddenly it is safe to be under close medical observation.
Once a person is affected with chikungunya, he/she is given a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration. There is no vaccination yet for chikungunya, but painkillers are given to heal joint pain. sometimes, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed which are not aspirin based. Antipyretics and analgesic drugs are also taken to reduce the symptoms of chikungunya. If you live in a mosquito inefested or a tropical area which faces rainfall most of the times, it is better to take proper precautions to avoid mosquito bites. This can be done by cleaning up pools or stagnant water where the mosquitoes can breed, utilizing mosquito nets, closing the windows of your house in the evening, using mosquito repellent creams and wearing full body covering clothing.