In February 2014, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a information alert to the general public on the prevention of Chikungunya (chik-en-gun-ye). The virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes.
Outbreaks of the virus have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The CDC reported in a revised information sheet the virus was found in the Americas for the first time in late 2013, primarily on the Caribbean islands. Travelers to these areas should be careful and limit their exposure to mosquitoes.
There is a specific mosquito that transmit the chikungunya virus, called the Aedes. They are found in temporary floodwater pools, fresh and brackish marshes, and in natural and artificial containers. Adults are abundant and bite readily outdoors at all hours of the day. It is not uncommon for them to enter homes to feed on humans. Certain species are medically important in the transmission of yellow fever and dengue.
Symptoms begin about a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pain, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain and joint swelling, or a rash.
Unfortunately there is no medication to treat the virus directly and a physician would treat with medicine to help reduce the fever and pain. Most patients feel better within 7-10 days. Compromised individuals, newborns, older adults over the age of 65 and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease should be especially careful to prevent exposure to any mosquitoes.
The Best Medicine: Prevention
There is no vaccine or medication to prevent contracting the chikungunya virus, your best bet is to reduce all mosquito exposure:
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens
- Use mosquito repellents on exposed skin
- Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants
- Wear permethrin-treated clothing
- Empty any non-chlorinated water areas (wading pools) after use and treat with a mixture of one part chlorine bleach and five parts water when not in use. Change the water in outdoor containers such a birdbaths often.
- Check around your house for anything with standing water; tires, buckets, places in your garden where water has accumulated.
Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. For more on Chikungunya virus, you can read more at: