What Is the Chikungunya Virus?

Chikungunya is a viral infection caused by the chikungunya virus. The chikungunya virus belongs to the alphavirus genus and the Togaviridae family. Chickungunya being transmitted by arthropods viz mosquitoes is called an arborvirus. It was first discovered in Tanzania in 1952 and the name literally means “ that which bends up or to become contorted” in the Kimakonde language.

The virus is usually carried by the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus genus of mosquitoes that bite during the day. Chikungunya is mostly relevant is tropical regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas. The spreading of the virus is a complex cycle of mosquitoes being infected by the humans and the infected mosquitoes in turn infecting humans.

The symptoms of chikungunya usually start showing two to twelve days after being bitten. Most cases of chikungunya are symptomatic, but once infected the body becomes immune to the infection. The classic symptom of chikungunya are joint pains and fever. Joint pains are usually symmetrical and most likely to affect the joints in the hands and legs. Wrist, ankle, knees, elbows and shoulders are most susceptible. Other symptoms of chikungunya include muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, joint swelling, rashes etc.

As of today, there is no approved available cure for chikungunya anywhere in the world. Additionally, there is no approved vaccine for it either. The symptoms of chikungunya are quite similar to those of dengue and Zika and are very often misdiagnosed unless confirmed with a medical blood test. The infections aren’t normal chronic but in case the patient has any underlying issues, the symptoms may become worse. Children and older people are more susceptible to chikungunya.

Given that there is no medication or treatment available for the infection, the recommended path of treatment is symptomatic. Meaning that the doctor prescribes medication to help relieve and manage the symptoms while the infection takes its course. Keeping the patient comfortable, adequate rest, light nutritious meals, heat compress and pain management meds for the joints and lots of fluids are recommended for a faster recovery. Medication to manage the fever also helps.

Since there is no vaccination available for the infection, the only way to prevent it is to prevent mosquito bites and controlling the mosquito population in the area. Various mosquito prevention options like nets, vaporizers, coils, mats, sprays, lotions, gels, creams, roll-ons etc. are available in the market today. Depending on one’s situation an appropriate choice should be made to stay safe from mosquito bites all through the day.

Another way of reducing the mosquito population is to get rid of breeding grounds and regular use of an effective insecticide. Any open drains, potholes etc. should be filled and covered. Any stagnant water should be removed immediately. Garbage should always be kept covered and disposed of appropriately on a daily basis. Mosquito repellent plants and trees can be grown in the vicinity while keeping children away from playing near stagnant water bodies.

The fight against Chikungunya, is a fairly easy one, should every be willing to do their bit for keeping the infection at bay.

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