Chikungunya is an infectious disease caused by a virus transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. It takes its name from a word from the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted," referring to the stooped appearance of those suffering from incapacitating joint pain due to the disease.
It is caused by the chikungunya virus from the genus Alphavirus. It is transmitted between humans via infected mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are the same mosquito species known to transmit the dengue virus.
Symptoms often appear 4–7 days after the patient has been bitten by an infected mosquito and these include:
• Joint pain (lower back, ankle, knees, wrists)
• Joint swelling
• Muscle pain
The illness usually goes away by itself after around 10 days, although some may experience symptoms (like joint pain) for several months to years after. Most individuals only require adequate rest and hydration, but they may also benefit from medication (e.g., paracetamol to control fever and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to control pain). However, aspirin should be avoided. Further management may include long-term follow-up and treatment of remaining symptoms or attacks of joint pain and swelling, and rehabilitation if with disability.
Mosquito avoidance is a key action in preventing the spread of the virus. Even those who are infected must avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during the first week of their illness. This is because mosquitoes may get the virus and, in turn, potentially spread it to more people.
Tips to help avoid mosquito bites include:
• Lessening outdoor activities during the cooler hours at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active.
• Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Using mosquito repellent on exposed skin.
• Staying in air-conditioned rooms or rooms with window and door screens.
• Sleeping under a mosquito net.
The Aedes mosquitoes that transmit the virus breed in a wide variety of rain-filled containers, which are common around human dwellings and workplaces, such as water storage containers, saucers under potted plants, drinking bowls for domestic animals, as well as discarded tires and food containers.
To reduce mosquito breeding:
• Remove discarded containers around the house.
• For containers that are in use, turn them over or empty them every 3–4 days, including any water-filled containers kept indoors. Alternatively, completely cover them to keep mosquitoes out.