The term chikungunya comes from a word in the Kimakonde language which means "that which bends up". It describes the stooped appearance of the sufferers due to joint pain (arthralgia) of those affected by the disease.
CAUSATIVE AGENT AND INFECTIVE CYCLE
Chikungunya is a viral disease and is typically imported into Europe. It is not endemic in our country, but it can give rise to indigenous cases thanks to the spread of one of their competent vectors (Asian tiger mosquito). The virus belongs to the Alphavirus genus, Togaviridae family.
The virus can be transmitted from human to human through the bite of an infected mosquito, in particular Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
SYMPTOMS AND COURSE OF THE DISEASE
After an infected mosquito bite, the symptoms start to appear within 2 to 12 days (on average 2 to 4 days). The disease is characterized by the abrupt onset of high fevers which is frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common symptoms are muscle aches, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and a skin rash.
Chikungunya usually has benign outcome; it is self-limited and serious complications are rare (encephalitis, myocarditis, hepatitis). The mortality rate is low (0.4%), but it can be fatal in older people or with those who have ongoing pathologies. Cure is spontaneous, but joint pain can persist for months.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
There is currently no approved vaccine against the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), nor specific medical treatment. Once the disease is contracted, therapy is based on the administration of symptomatic drugs (antipyretics, anti-inflammatory drugs), bed rest, fluid replenishment and exercises to relieve joint stiffness and pain.
Prevention is primarily about avoiding or minimizing mosquito bites; surveillance is key when the virus has been introduced.
Last modified: Jan 2021