What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a virus that causes infection in human. The virus is rampant in regions of Africa, South-east Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. A number of outbreaks have been recorded in these places over the years that have resulted in deaths too. The WHO data shows that there have been deaths around the world due to Chikungunya outbreaks. The worst outbreak occurred in India in 2006 when as many as 13.9 lakh chikungunya cases had been reported.
The chikungunya virus is spread when an infected female mosquito of the Aedes species bites a human. These are the same species of mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus too.
What are the signs and symptoms of Chikungunya?
Signs and symptoms of chikungunya appear after 3 – 7 days of being bitten by a mosquito. But it is not always easy to recognize the symptoms as it might be similar to the flu and dengue fever or Zika Virus.
Visit a doctor soon if you experience any of these symptoms:
- High fever
- Joint pain and swelling in the ankles, lower back, knees, and wrists
- Skin rash and redness
- Muscle pain
These symptoms usually die down after 2-3 days and the virus stays in the human system for 5-7 days.
Treatment of Chikungunya
A doctor recommends a serological test to diagnose and detect chikungunya. A person usually recovers from chikungunya within a few days and there are no specific treatments for chikungunya. The doctor may prescribe some common medications for fever and joint pain along with a well-balanced diet. You must have a lot of fluids and a nutritious food to recover from the infection. Alongside, get a lot of rest for recovery.
However, the recovery from the infection will give life-long immunity to the individual.
Although chikungunya infection is not worrisome, the virus is tough on infants, senior adults above 65 years and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.
How to prevent chikungunya infection
If you are traveling to a place that has incidents of chikungunya outbreaks or staying in one such place, you must take some extra precautions to avoid the mosquito bites. Here’s what you can do:
- Chikungunya mosquitoes are most active during daytime. So wear full-sleeve clothing when you are going out in daylight.
- Stay indoors for most of the time with air-conditioning
- If you are staying in a room with no window screens or air-conditioning, always put a mosquito net over your bed.
- Always wear a mosquito repellant when you are going out.
- Get rid of standing water from flower pots or water tubs and buckets.
- Apply mosquito repellant drops or creams on your child’s exposed skin and clothing when they are going to school, daycare or to play.
There is no vaccine to immunize you against chikungunya infection; but if you have had the infection once in your lifetime, you are likely to never have it again.