The name chikungunya may sound funny but this virus is no laughing matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recent cases are being reported in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, totaling 57 infections reported in the United States so far this year. To date, all cases occurred in travelers returning from affected areas in the Caribbean. The mosquitoes that spread chikungunya bite mostly during the daytime.
The best way to prevent chikungunya virus infection is by avoiding mosquito bites altogether. Check out our National Mosquito Control Awareness week blog for tips on how to keep mosquitoes at bay this summer, and all year long.
If traveling to a country where chikungunya is widespread, use extra precaution in protecting yourself from mosquito bites. When spending time outdoors, it is suggested travelers wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts, pants, etc.) and apply insect repellants containing DEET.
Patients who are diagnosed with chikungunya should avoid additional exposure to mosquitoes to help prevent the further spread of the virus to other mosquitoes and later to other people.
The word chikungunya originated from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers. Bites from an infected mosquito can lead to symptoms such as fever and extreme joint pain, along with headaches, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rashes. These symptoms can begin four to eight days after infected and usually resolve after one week. While most patients recover fully, some experience persisting joint pain for months, or even years.
Although not fatal, there is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus. But with proper care and actions, it can be prevented.
A viral infection transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, chikungunya originated in southeast Africa. The virus has since spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and has become well established in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and islands of the Indian and Pacific Ocean. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean.