With the monsoon, there has also been an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses including Dengue and Chikungunya. This season, in particular, there has been an unprecedented increase in the cases of Chikungunya in Delhi. Most patients recover from the disease and serious complications are uncommon. In some cases, however due to complications, death might occur in the elderly. Some Chikungunya symptoms can last from weeks to months. These symptoms can be disabling and it is important to recognize the early signs so treatment can be started appropriately. Here are 5 facts that you need to know about this disease:
1. Chikungunya is a viral infection transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti andAedes albopictus mosquito. This is the same mosquito that transmits Dengue and Yellow Fever. The infection usually lasts for 7 to 10 days.
2. Symptoms: Most people bitten by the infected mosquito will get the infection. The symptoms usually start 4-8 days after getting bitten and the most common symptoms include:
– Sudden high-grade fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius that can last for 3-4 days.
– Severe joint pains: Hands, wrists and ankles are most frequently affected. Joint pains can be very severe and disabling. They usually last for a few days beginning after the fever starts. Patients can also see swelling in the joints and experience morning stiffness. Sometimes pain extends to other joints like the back and knees as well. In some cases these joint pains can last for weeks to months causing severe disability. Cases with chronic join pain lasting for years after Chikungunya infection has also been seen.
– Rash: Usually 50% of the patients also get a rash typically seen on the face, arms, legs and back. Usually the rash is itchy in around 30% of the cases. The rash usually begins with the fever and can last for a week.
– Myalgia or muscle aches
3. Diagnosis: Chikungunya can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. The commonly available ELISA blood test can be used to check Chikungunya antibodies. While this may take longer to become positive, virological tests like RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase PCR) can be used for earlier detection of virus in the blood – as early as the first 5 days after the onset of symptoms.
4. Treatment: There is no specific vaccine or antivirals for this infection, and the treatment is primarily symptomatic. Treatment is directed towards relieving joint pains using analgesics and fluids. The symptoms are often difficult to differentiate from Dengue, hence it is important to not take any Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like aspirin, diclofenac and ibuprofen till Dengue is ruled out as these medicines can cause platelets to fall in Dengue infection.
5. Precautions to be taken: Prevention is the best cure. These mosquitoes use indoor sites likes flower vases and water storage vessels for breeding, and it is important to keep these areas clean. The Aedes albopictus mosquito also breeds in outdoor areas like coconut husks, water in pots and coolers.
The mosquito is active in the daytime, usually more in the early mornings and late evenings so it is important to wear long-sleeved clothes or use mosquito coils or repellents that contain DEET to prevent mosquito bites. For babies and children who nap during the day, using mosquito nets can also help limit mosquito bites.
Please do not self-medicate and please consult your doctor is you have fever, joint pains or any signs you have Chikungunya.