Chikungunya – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Guest Post by Dr. Vidhi Jain

Chikungunya is an infectious viral disease that is transmitted via mosquitoes. It causes a number of unpleasant symptoms including fever, joint pain, muscle ache, nausea and more.

This condition is often debilitating and there is currently no cure as such. In rare cases (around 1 in 1,000), it may prove to be fatal. However, it is usually self-limiting and symptoms should end after a week to several weeks.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

In rare cases, Chikungunya can be asymptomatic (presenting without symptoms) but usually is not. The most notable symptoms are the high fever, coupled with joint pain and rash. Other symptoms can include,

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Nausea
  • Sickness
  • Muscle aches

Normally, symptoms will improve after around ten days and after this point, the virus will not be detectable in the blood. Fever is often the first symptom that can last from several days to several weeks and will reach as high as 104 ℉.

The next symptom is usually joint pain which will often last for a few weeks. In rare cases, however, this can continue for long – sometimes for several years at which point the condition becomes chronic. This chronic, long-term form is often referred to as chronic chikungunya virus-induced arthralgia.

During this stage, more than one joint will be affected, although it does not normally cause swelling. Affected areas are usually located in the arms and legs and any points affected by arthritis or other existing complaints are more likely to be affected. A rash will emerge in 40-50% of cases. Large papules appear in clusters, often around the chest, back or stomach. This normally appears 2-5 days after the onset of symptoms.

The prognosis is generally good, with mortality rates being just below 1 in 1,000. Chronic symptoms are also rare but become more likely with advanced age.

Treatment and Prevention of Chikungunya

There is no treatment that can cure chikungunya, so supportive care is recommended to manage symptoms. Options include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and non-aspirin analgesics like paracetamol.

For those with chronic symptoms, arthritis medication may be used. Ribavirin is useful in some cases, while steroids have not been found to be useful. Methotrexate, which is normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, has also been shown to be successful in some scenarios.

Right now, there is no approved vaccine for chikungunya. However, trials are being conducted which show a lot of promise.

For now, the best protection against this highly unpleasant condition is PREVENTION from mosquitoes by

  • wearing long sleeves tops and trousers
  • using insect repellents
  • practicing mosquito control
  • avoiding gathering of water for a long period in the home where mosquitos will commonly lay their eggs.
  • using nets and to protect infants as well

Sometimes it can seem like an endless struggle to keep mosquitoes at bay but conditions like chikungunya show just why this is so important.

Author Bio:
Dr. Vidhi Jain has over 7 years of experience as a Physiotherapist. She has a Masters in Physiotherapy in Orthopedics and is currently practicing at Vinayak Physiotherapy in Noida as HOD of the Physiotherapy Department. She has been nominated as ‘Best Physiotherapy Consultant’ in Noida & firmly believes in health care that is based on a personal commitment to meet patient needs with compassion and care.
She also writes for Medlife International Private Limited, an online pharmacy store operating in India offering home delivery of authentic prescription medicines at discounted prices.

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