Chikungunya is an infection in humans caused by the chikungunya virus. The Chikungunya virus is present in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Indian Ocean Islands, where a number of outbreaks have occurred.

How Chikungunya is Spread

Humans and other primates are the natural hosts for the chikungunya virus. The virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected female Ades species mosquito – Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus. These are the same tropical and sub-tropical mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. They breed in or near human habitations and prefer to feed on humans during the daytime in shady areas but may also bite early in the night.

What are Chikungunya virus infection symptoms?

Most people that become infected with the virus will develop some symptoms usually within 3 to 7 days after a bite by an infected mosquito

The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling

The affected individual may also develop

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash

Most patients feel better in about seven days, but in some individuals the joint pain may last for months. The symptoms are similar to those of another disease, dengue fever, which is also spread by the same mosquitoes.

Rare complications include eye problems, inflammation of the heart, liver, brain, skin, kidneys and nerves. Neonates and the elderly (>65 years), especially those with other medical problems, are at highest risk for severe disease and complications. Death is rare and occurs mainly in the elderly.

How is Chikungunya virus infection diagnosed?

The Chikungunya disease may be diagnosed by blood antibody tests that distinguish between this infection and dengue fever, a similar viral disease, and other diseases. There is no medicine or vaccine available to specifically treat or prevent Chikungunya virus infections.

Incubation and Infectious Periods

The incubation is the time between becoming infected and developing symptoms. The incubation period for this virus is typically 3 to 7 days, with a range of 1 to 12 days. The Chikungunya virus does not have an infectious period because it cannot be spread directly from person to person.

What is the treatment for Chikungunya virus infection?

Medical treatments and home remedies to relieve symptoms of Chikungunya virus infections include rest, fluids, and any medicines that might reduce the fever and pain.

Once a person recovers from Chikungunya infection, research suggests that the person develops life-long immunity to the virus type.

How can Chikungunya virus infection be prevented?

The best way to prevent Chikungunya infections is to avoid getting mosquito bites. This can be done by:

  • Eliminating areas where mosquitoes breed (emptying containers where water is left standing)
  • Wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Using insect repellents appropriately

If you do become infected, you should protect yourself from any further mosquito bites because you can transfer the virus from you to another mosquito, and possibly into another person if that mosquito bites an uninfected individual.