What Is Chikungunya?
A few years ago, news about a mosquito-borne disease spread like wildfire. It got people worried, especially parents who have been shaken by the dangers that dengue has caused their children.
Chikungunya, actually pronounced as ‘chick-en-goon-yah,’ has apparently been identified in Central and South America in 2006. That time, though, the people who contracted the disease all got it exclusively from the Central and South Americas. Last 2014, the first case of Chikungunya was identified in Florida.
Chikungunya is a virus that is carried by mosquitoes which causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, rashes, and severe joint pain. The virus has an incubation period of within two to seven days, which means that the symptoms appear within this time frame after being bitten by the mosquito.
According to Dr. Stanley Perlman, who is among the world’s leading infectious disease specialists, says that he anticipated the emergence of this disease in the United States. This is because the pathogen is transmitted by two types of mosquitoes – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. He often calls this disease ‘breaking bone’ because the joint pain that an individual experience is excruciating and feels like the bones are breaking.
When Chikungunya hit Florida, parents got really worried and panicked when they heard about this weird-sounding disease. They thought it was some kind of mental illness or a type of terminal condition. They thought of how much therapy would cost them to cure their kids from this disease. They would have known more about mental illnesses if they had checked out this link.
How Can I Be Sure It’s Not Zika or Dengue?
It can be difficult to determine just by looking whether what you have is Chikungunya or dengue or Zika, because the latter two are also both caused by a mosquito bite and some symptoms present similarly with Chikungunya.
Let us clearly differentiate their main symptoms to be able to see the similarities and differences between these three mosquito-borne diseases.
Chikungunya main symptoms:
- High fever of abrupt onset
- Severe joint pain particularly in the hands, wrists, ankles, and feet
There is no cure for this disease but most people do recover completely. However, there is a residual joint pain for about two weeks. In some cases, though, it may persist for three years in the chronic phase of the disease.
Chikungunya is almost always never life-threatening. However, the virus itself may cause potential danger to babies, older individuals and those with pre-existing illnesses.
Zika virus disease main symptoms:
- Low-grade fever
- Skin maculopapular rash, initially on the face then spreads throughout the body
- Mild joint pain
- Red eyes
Like Chikungunya, the Zika virus disease is not usually fatal. However, it is closely related to Guillain Barre Syndrome and can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus.
Dengue fever main symptoms:
- Fever of sudden onset
- Excruciating headache and muscle pain
- Mild to moderate joint pain
- Low appetite
Individuals with a low immune system and those who have had a previous dengue infection are prone to developing hemorrhagic fever, a condition that may lead to substantial bleeding, shock and ultimately death, a phenomenon known as dengue shock syndrome.
Should I be Worried If I have Chikungunya?
With the symptoms mentioned above, it is safe to assume that Chikungunya is not a life-threatening disease and deaths are very rare. However, it would be wise for individuals who are currently sick or with lowered immune systems to avoid traveling to regions where there are apparent outbreaks.
Children and even adults are advised to stay indoors during the late afternoons when most of the mosquitoes are present outdoors. Screen your doors and windows and if possible, turn on the air conditioner. If you have to go outside, wear long sleeves and jeans, not shorts. You can also apply mosquito repellents just to be safe.