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 Chikungunya Fever

Press release  


What is it?

It is a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitos, which are the same dengue vectors.

What is the origin of the word chikungunya? 

The word comes from a term in the African Makonde language, meaning “bent over in pain”. This virus was detected for the first time in Tanzania in 1952. Since 2004, there have been intense and widespread outbreaks in Africa, Indian Ocean islands and the Pacific region, including Australia and Southeast Asia (India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand). 

There was an outbreak in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in 2007, which was transmitted locally by Ae. albopictus. Before the first confirmation of indigenous transmission in the region, several imported cases had already been reported among travelers returning from Asia or Africa with the virus.

How long does the disease last?

It usually lasts between five and seven days. 

What are the symptoms?

The disease is characterized by a sudden onset of fever with pain in the joints or severe arthritis in people who live or have visited endemic or epidemic areas during the two weeks preceding the start of symptoms. 

Most patients recover fully but in some cases some develop chronic joint pain. Although serious complications are rare, older people, children and pregnant women must be closely monitored.

How can I confirm that I have been infected with chikungunya?

Diagnosis is clinical, after informing a health care professional of the epidemiological connection, and in the context of medical consultation. For epidemiological purposes, diagnosis is based on virus isolation, viral RNA detection by RT-PCR, IgM detection in a single serum sample (collected during the acute convalescent phase) or a fourfold increase in the CHIKV-specific antibody titer (samples must be collected at least two or three weeks apart). 

Can disease symptoms persist?

Yes. Symptoms may reappear two or three months after the onset of the disease and some patients may develop rheumatic symptoms such as distal polyarthritis, exacerbation of pain in previously injured bones and joints, and sub-acute hypertrophic tenosynovitis in wrists and ankles. In some cases symptoms may persist for 2 or 3 years.

Can you get chikungunya twice? 

No, only once. Antibodies in charge of protecting people will develop after preliminary infection. According to current available evidence, immunity should be life-long.

What is the treatment? 

98% of the cases is outpatient treatment. Since the pain is intense, bed rest with the use of a mosquito net are prescribed. In the event of pain and fever, patients are advised to take acetaminophen. Fever and high air temperatures cause the body to lose water through sweat and breathing, which is why it is crucial to drink plenty of fluids.  Adults need 2 to 3 liters per day, while children should drink continuously, at will.  People should drink water, coconut water, soup, fruit juice and oral rehydration solutions (ORSs). Dehydration should be avoided since it can lead to further complications.

Is there a vaccine against the disease?

There is no vaccine against the chikungunya virus. Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms.

Can it cause death? 

No. This virus rarely endangers the patient’s life. 

What precautions should be taken? 

On a personal basis, individuals should avoid mosquito bites, which occur mostly during the day. To do so, these recommendations should be followed:

  • Wear clothing that covers as much skin surface as possible. 
  • Apply mosquito repellent on exposed skin and clothing, following instructions of use.
  • Use mosquito nets/mesh to protect children, the elderly and the sick, or anyone resting during the day. Net effectiveness may be increased with the use of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN), recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

How can chikungunya be prevented at home? 

  • Eliminate all mosquito breeding sites, such as pots, vases, and the like, inside and surrounding the home. They should also be eliminated in other areas that attract mosquitos, such as parks, public and private schools, workplaces, among others. 
  • Wash all tanks and reservoirs which store water for domestic use weekly. Chlorine should be applied on the walls of tanks and pools with a sponge on the area above the water level and left untouched for 15 minutes to allow penetration, and then scrubbed with a hard bristle brush to dislodge the vector eggs.
  • Keep backyards free of objects that can store water, dispose properly of tires and scrap metal, and adequately clean rain gutters, puddles, clean water tanks, and other. 
  • Collect garbage and solid waste in vacant lots and keep backyards clean. 
  • Join community collection processes of unusable materials with inter-sector and community participation.


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