What Is Chikungunya? | Home Remedy for Chikungunya

The virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause severe joint pain.

Chikungunya is a viral infection that’s spread among humans by mosquitoes that carry the virus.

The infection is known for the sudden high fever and severe joint pain or stiffness it can cause.

Other common symptoms of chikungunya include rash, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and fatigue.

Most people recover fully from chikungunya and become immune to it for life. However, the pain may last for weeks or recur months later.

In up to 15 percent of cases, it may become chronic, lasting years. As a result, chikungunya can sometimes be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis.

Rarely, chikungunya infections can lead to severe problems on the skin, or in the eyes, kidneys, heart, or nervous system.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for chikungunya. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms.

The name "chikungunya" comes from a word in the Makonde (or Kimakonde) language of Southern Africa, meaning "to walk bent over," describing the stooped appearance of those suffering from intense joint pain.

Chikungunya Transmission

During epidemics, the cycle of chikungunya transmission is mainly between mosquitoes and humans.

In parts of Africa, however, wild primates and bats have been known to contribute to human epidemics through mosquito bites.

Other animals, including birds, cattle, and rodents, may also become infected and contribute to spreading the disease through mosquitoes.

You can spread the virus to others if you are bitten by a mosquito about two to six days into your illness.

Blood-borne transmission is also possible. It's been documented in laboratory workers exposed to infected blood.

Newborns may also contract chikungunya from infected mothers during a limited number of days before and after birth.

Breastfeeding is not thought to spread the infection, since the virus has not been found in breast milk.

Two species of aggressive mosquitoes in the United States are known to carry chikungunya.

They are the Aedes aegypti, or "yellow fever mosquito," in the South; and the Aedes albopictus, or "Asian tiger mosquito," found in much of the country.

Mosquito-breeding sites near human habitation pose a significant risk for chikungunya.

Chikungunya Prevalence Worldwide

Chikungunya has mainly affected people in Africa, Asia, and India, where millions have been infected since epidemics re-emerged in 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More recently, it has been found in Europe and North and South America, including the Caribbean.

From 2006 to 2013 in the United States, an average of 28 cases of chikungunya (ranging from five to 65) has been reported each year, according to the CDC.

In all, U.S. cases, the people were infected outside the country.

That number jumped in 2014 to more than 2,000 cases reported in the continental United States, according to the CDC. Eleven of those people were infected locally while they were in Florida.

Hundreds of thousands of infections were reported in the Caribbean for the first time in 2013 and 2014, according to the World Health Organization and the CDC, including thousands of cases contracted in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in Europe in a localized outbreak in northeastern Italy.

The actual number of U.S. cases through the year 2014 is not known because doctors were not required by the CDC to report chikungunya. In 2015, however, the agency made it a nationally notifiable disease, prompting reports from healthcare workers.

Chikungunya Outbreaks

Outbreaks of chikungunya are usually large, with high percentages of people contracting the disease.

The virus that causes chikungunya was first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. It has caused periodic epidemics in Africa and Asia since the 1960s.

Recent significant outbreaks include:

1999 to 2000: Democratic Republic of the Congo
2005 and 2006: Indian Ocean islands, with some cases traveling to Europe
2006 and 2007: India and other countries in the region
2007: Gabon
2011 to 2014: the Pacific Islands
2014: the Caribbean islands, Central America, some South American countries, and the United States
One high-profile case involving actress Lindsay Lohan demonstrated the risks of traveling to regions where there is a chikungunya outbreak.

Lohan made headlines in December, 2014, after she reportedly contracted the virus while vacationing in French Polynesia.

As of March 2015, according to the CDC, cases of chikungunya have been reported in several countries in the Americas, including:

British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Martin
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Turks and Caicos Islands
US Virgin Islands

The United States has also had several cases of the virus (all in Florida).

Chikungunya Treatment

here is no cure for chikungunya. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

There is currently no cure for chikungunya, nor is there a vaccine.

Treatment of chikungunya is aimed at managing symptoms.

If you have the disease, antipyretics (drugs that reduce fever), analgesics (pain relievers), fluids, and rest can help make you more comfortable.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications you can use to treat chikungunya pain and fever include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin.

Chikungunya or Dengue Fever?

If you are in or have been in an area that also has dengue fever, your doctor should treat you as if you have dengue instead of chikungunya, since dengue is more serious.

This should be done until blood tests can confirm your disease.

Dengue is spread by the same types of mosquitoes as chikungunya is, and it has many similar symptoms. But dengue causes bleeding that is made worse by many of the medications for pain and fever.

Your doctor may recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce fever and pain if you have either disease, since Tylenol does not increase the risk of bleeding.

It's also possible to have both chikungunya and dengue at the same time.

Recovery from Chikungunya

In most cases, symptoms of chikungunya last for about a week, after which most people recover fully.

For some people, however, joint pain persists or recurs in the months following the acute illness.

More rarely, the pain and other symptoms may become chronic, continuing for months or even years.

Persistent joint pain may be treated with NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and physical therapy.

Occasionally, additional treatments and ongoing care are required for serious complications, such as inflammation of the eyes, heart muscle (myocarditis), or brain (encephalitis), or the development of other conditions.

Chikungunya Prevention and Control

Prevention and control of chikungunya involves reducing the number of mosquitoes in a geographic area and preventing mosquito bites.

Reducing the number of places that mosquito breed can cut down the population significantly.

Some simple actions include:

Emptying water from containers, such as the saucers under potted plants, vases, buckets, and rain gutters
Covering water containers that cannot be emptied, such as tanks or reservoirs that provide household water
Getting rid of old tires that may be left outside
Keeping garbage in closed plastic bags and in closed containers
You may also use insecticide to kill mature mosquitoes and immature larvae. Some townships and cities may also do aerial spraying of insecticides.

The mosquitoes that cause most chikungunya infections typically bite aggressively during the day, with biting activity peaking at twilight, although sometimes they may bite in the nighttime, too.

You can minimize mosquito bites by:

Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and other clothing that minimizes skin exposure
Using insect repellents on skin or clothing
Making sure indoor spaces have adequate screens to keep mosquitoes out
Using insecticide-treated mosquito nets over your bed if you sleep in the daytime
Wearing mosquito netting over your face and neck, in addition to using gloves or repellents, if you spend a lot of time outdoors in areas with mosquitoes
Avoiding travel to areas experiencing a chikungunya outbreak
Mosquito bites are also important to prevent if you already have chikungunya, because your blood can infect mosquitoes, which will spread the infection to other people.

The risk of a person with chikungunya infecting a mosquito is highest during the first week of the illness.

Home Remedy for Chikungunya

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