Chikungunya fever is caused by a virus that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The two specific groups of mosquitoes responsible for spreading the virus are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Even though this disease is more common in Africa, Asia and parts of India, in recent years, many cases have been reported in the Western Hemisphere. The virus causes high fever and joint pain about three to seven days after infection. Currently, there is no treatment for chikungunya fever and the only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites. However, the virus is generally not serious and is rarely fatal.
Part 1 of 2: Identifying the symptoms
Step 1. Watch out for high fever
It is one of the first symptoms of chikungunya and is usually around 40 °C lasting up to a week.
Step 2. Identify joint pain
It is often intense and disabling. Also, it is usually bilateral (affecting both sides) and usually affects the hands and feet. The lower limbs and the back are the least likely places to be affected by joint pain. This pain can last for weeks and, in some rare cases, it can take up to a year or more to go away. The term "chikungunya" means "those who bend" in the Makonde dialect of Tanzania, which describes the physical appearance of a person with the severe clinical features of the disease.
- In most patients, joint pain will last for seven to ten days, however, in older patients, it may persist for longer.
- Some people will also have joint swelling.
Step 3. Check for the formation of red patches on the skin
The spots usually occur after the onset of fever, and are usually maculopapular, so they will appear as a flat, red area of skin covered with small blisters. They mainly affect the trunk and extremities. In addition, they can also appear on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and on the face.
Step 4. Note the presence of additional symptoms
A person suffering from chikungunya may also experience headache, muscle pain, conjunctivitis, nausea and vomiting.
Part 2 of 2: Treating and preventing the virus
Step 1. Consult a physician if chikungunya fever is suspected
If you experience fever, joint pain, and blemishes, see a doctor. Because chikungunya is difficult to diagnose (and is often misdiagnosed as dengue), your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, places you've recently traveled, and take a blood sample for viral testing. The only way to truly confirm the presence of chikungunya fever is through laboratory testing of blood serum or cerebrospinal fluid.
Tests typically take about four to 14 days to process. At this point, your body is already attacking the chikungunya virus
Step 2. Treat virus symptoms
There are no antiviral medications designed to treat chikungunya fever, however the doctor may prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms. He will also advise you to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- For example, fever and joint pain can be controlled with acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Do not take aspirin because of the increased risk of Reye's syndrome: a rare and serious condition that causes swelling of the liver and brain, especially in children and adolescents.
Step 3. Prevent chikungunya fever by avoiding mosquito bites
Currently, there is no commercial vaccine for chikungunya fever. Therefore, the only way to avoid the virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially when traveling to areas where the disease is present, such as Africa, Asia and parts of the Indian subcontinent. A person at high risk for complications, such as a pregnant woman or a woman with other serious medical conditions, should avoid going to hot spots if possible. Follow these recommendations to avoid mosquito bites:
- Wear long shirts and pants when traveling to high-risk areas. If possible, treat clothes with permethrin (a type of insecticide) to repel mosquitoes.
- Use mosquito repellent on exposed skin, preferably one containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, eucalyptus citriodora oil or para-menthane-diol (PMD), as these are more effective and last longer.
- Make sure your accommodations have insect screens well installed on windows and doors. Sleep at night under an insecticide-treated mosquito net and use a screen to protect children and the elderly if they sleep during the day.