Chikungunya : Transmission, Symptoms, Tests, Treatment, Prevention.

What is Chikungunya Fever?

Chikungunya Fever is a viral infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. It causes a sudden onset of fever with severe joint pain. Other symptoms of chikungunya virus infection include muscle pain, fatigue, headache, and rashes. Most of these symptoms are also found in dengue fever. Therefore, sometimes chikungunya fever is misdiagnosed as dengue fever. At present no vaccines exist to prevent chikungunya fever nor there is any specific antiviral treatment available. However, the treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms with antipyretics, analgesics, adequate fluid intake combined with rest.

Transmission of Chikungunya Fever

Chikungunya virus infection is spread through female mosquito bites. There are 2 mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are known to spread chikungunya. These mosquitoes are daytime biters and their peak activity is seen in the morning hours. In some cases, chikungunya also spreads from the mother to the newborn at the time of birth, and theoretically, it can spread from transfusion of infected blood and blood products.

Symptoms of Chikungunya Fever

The incubation period, i.e. the time between becoming infected and developing symptoms typically range from 2-7 days.

The most common symptoms of chikungunya include:-

  • High Fever
  • Joint pain, mainly in the arms and legs
  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Rashes

When Should You Visit a Doctor?

Check with your doctor if you feel any of the above symptoms, and there is a chikungunya or dengue fever outbreak in your area. Also consult your doctor if you made a trip to chikungunya infested area and you have developed any of the above symptoms. Your doctor may order blood tests to look for chikungunya or similar diseases like dengue or zika.

Which Doctor will treat suspected chikungunya fever patient ?

In India a General Physician (GP) is trained in treating chikungunya fever. Also a doctor who has done an advanced course in infectious diseases or tropical diseases can treat chikungunya infection.

Chikungunya Fever Tests to confirm infection ?

The doctor will order some blood investigations to infection, if he/she suspects chikungunya fever based on symptoms. 

These include chikungunya antibodies (IgG and IgM Type). IgM antibodies are positive in a  recent infection. If IgM antibody is negative and IgG antibody is positive, this means you have suffered from chikungunya infection in the past.

Complete blood count are also done to rule out any complications.

Treatment for Chikungunya Virus Infection

  • There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya virus infection.
  • Take plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • There are not any specific medication available against chikungunya infection. Take Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce fever and pain, but only after getting a valid prescription from your doctor.
  • If you are diagnosed with chikungunya, prevent mosquito bites for at least the first week of your illness. During the first week of infection, the virus can be found in the blood and can be passed on to a mosquito through bites. A mosquito that has been infected can then spread the virus to other people.

Prevention against Chikungunya Virus Infection

If you are traveling to a place that has an outbreak, follow these measures to lower your chances of being bitten by infected mosquitoes:-

Wear long sleeves clothes and long pants.

  • Stay indoors or where there is air conditioning.
  • If you are in a place with no air conditioner, make sure there is a mosquito net over your bed.
  • If you go outside without sleeves, wear a mosquito repellant (containing diethyl phthalate, diethyl carbate, DEET, metofluthrin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus, picaridin and ethyl hexanediol) (1)
  • Dump any standing water in things like kitchen containers, flower pots, or dustbins in your house or hotel rooms, is a hot caffeinated drink like coffee. It helps you open up the airways of your chest, providing some relief.
  • Use mosquito repellant sprays all around the house, especially behind the curtains and corners of the rooms.
  • If you are an older adult or suffering from heart disease or diabetes, avoid traveling to such areas because you are at an increased risk of getting infected.

Dr. Divaanshu Gupta

Dr. Divaanshu Gupta is a cardiac anaesthesiologist in Manipal Hospital, Jaipur. He has done his M.B.B.S. as well as M.D. Anaesthesia from S.M.S. Medical College. He has a vast experience of working in various critical care units of government as well as corporate hospitals.

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