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Chikungunya virus

Definition

Chikungunya is a virus passed to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever and severe joint pain. The name chikungunya (pronounced "chik-en-gun-ye") is an African word meaning "bent over in pain."

For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website -- www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/.

Alternative Names

Chikungunya virus infection; Chikungunya

Causes

Where Chikungunya is found

Before 2013, the virus was found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific oceans. In late 2013, outbreaks occurred for the first time in the Americas in the Caribbean Islands.

In the Americas, local transmission of the disease has been found in 44 countries and territories. This means that mosquitoes in those areas have the virus and are spreading it to humans.

Since 2014, the disease has been found in travelers coming to the United States from affected areas in the Americas. Local transmission has occurred in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

How Chikungunya can spread

Mosquitoes spread the virus from person to person. Mosquitoes pick up the virus when they feed on infected people. They spread the virus when they bite other people.

The mosquitoes that spread chikungunya are the same type that spread dengue fever, which has similar symptoms. These mosquitoes usually feed during the day.

Symptoms

Symptoms develop 3 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The disease is easily spread. Most people who become infected have symptoms.

The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Joint swelling
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Rash

Symptoms are similar to the flu and can be severe, but usually not deadly. Most people recover in a week. Some have joint pain for months or longer. The disease can lead to death in frail older adults.

Treatment

There is no treatment for chikungunya. Like the flu virus, it has to run its course. You can take steps to help relieve symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain and fever.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of chikungunya. Let your provider know if you have traveled recently in an area where the virus is spread. Your provider may do a blood test to check for the disease.

Prevention

There is no vaccine to protect against chikungunya. The best way to avoid getting the virus is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes. If you are in an area where there is local transmission of the virus, take these steps to protect yourself:

  • When it is not too hot, cover up with long sleeves, long pants, socks, and a hat.
  • Use clothing coated with permethrin.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. When using sunscreen, apply insect repellant after you apply sunscreen.
  • Sleep in a room with air conditioning or with windows with screens. Check screens for large holes.
  • Remove standing water from any outside containers such as buckets, flower pots, and birdbaths.
  • If sleeping outside, sleep under a mosquito net.

If you get chikungunya, try to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes so you do not pass the virus to others.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chikungunya virus. www.cdc.gov/chikungunya. Last updated: May 21,2015. Accessed: May 21, 2015.

Khabbaz R, Bell BP, Schuchat A, et al. Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Disease Threats. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 14.

World Health Organization. Chikungunya. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en. Accessed May 21, 2015.

Review Date:6/9/2015
Reviewed By:Mark Levin, MD, Division of Infectious Disease, MacNeal Hospital, Berwyn, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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