Chikungunya is a disease that is caused when an infected mosquito bites a healthy person. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the two mosquitoes that spread this disease. Also, the symptoms of chikungunya are very similar to dengue and therefore, people often confused these two to be the same. While dengue is deadly, chikungunya can be controlled by taking the right treatment. The infection lasts up to two weeks. There are so many mosquito-borne diseases that it becomes difficult to differentiate. You must check out for high fever, joint pain, rashes on the skin, headache, light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. Watch out for mosquitoes during the breeding season and take all the precautionary measures to stay protected.
How Is Chikungunya Caused?
Let us first tell you how is this disease caused. Most of you may not know but chikungunya and dengue both are caused by the same set of mosquitoes namely Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Particularly, the female specie of these mosquitoes cause this infection and spread it to others. Aedes aegypti mosquito can even bite indoors which is why people who don’t go out also get infected with chikungunya. When the mosquito bites an infected person, the infection is carried and then they inject the same to a healthy person upon biting. This is why chikungunya can spread from one person to another. Generally, these mosquitoes bite during the day but early morning and later afternoon or evening are the two times when these mosquitoes are highly active.
How does chikungunya spread?
If a person is having chikungunya and a mosquito bites him, the chikungunya virus is carried to them through the blood of the infected person. The virus enters the mosquito and makes it an infected mosquito. When this mosquito bites any other person, the virus gets transmitted to them.
Now, the virus gets mixed with their blood and then travels to various glands and body parts through the bloodstream. This infection causes inflammation of the blood vessels where they start to leak followed by swelling. Mostly, this virus targets the muscles, joints and skin. In people with weaker immunity or compromised immune system, this virus can affect their eyes, kidneys, liver and even the central nervous system. This happens as this virus infects the muscle cells. Until the muscle cell dies, this virus keeps on reproducing in it. After degradation of the infected muscle cell, it enters another cell and infects it. This causes symptoms like inflammation, joint pain, fever and skin rash.
What are the symptoms of chikungunya?
It becomes easier to diagnose any condition with its visible symptoms. In the case of chikungunya, the set of visible symptoms include:
- High fever
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Debilitating headache
- Rashes on the skin caused by blood vessels damage
- Swollen neck due to inflammation in the lymph node
- Sore throat
- Cold hands and feet
- Painful abdominal cramps
Since most of the symptoms of chikungunya and dengue are the same, people panic when they exhibit these symptoms thinking of dengue. Muscle pain and joint pain are the two symptoms that are exclusive to chikungunya. This is why chikungunya is also called a collective state of dengue and arthritis.
How is chikungunya diagnosed?
If you show the symptoms of chikungunya, you must visit a doctor to get yourself tested for this mosquito-borne disease. The one test that helps in detecting the presence of chikungunya virus inside the blood is- ELISA or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay blood test. This test checks for the IgM antibodies that are formed in the body after contracting the virus and may remain for one year.
Are there any complications of chikungunya?
Most infections are associated with some health complications. Chikungunya too causes certain health problems that may range from mild to severe. It depends on an individual and his/her body’s immunity. Here is the list of some common complications that chikungunya infection can cause:
- Neurological imbalances
- Jaundice is caused due to liver damage due to infection
- A kidney infection that can cause acute renal diseases
- Myocarditis condition occurs when heart muscle swell up
- Eye diseases or ocular diseases like retinitis and uveitis
- Neurological diseases like myelitis, meningoencephalitis, cranial nerve palsies and Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Severe bullous lesions
How is chikungunya treated?
Surprisingly, there is no proper treatment available for chikungunya as of now. No medication is prescribed after the infection as chikungunya is a self-remitting disease. Only severe cases of chikungunya infection where the person has contracted with complications of chikungunya are provided medical aid for the secondary illness.
In general cases, doctors prescribe painkillers to lessen the pain and get relief from fever. Paracetamol is the go-to prescribed medication for chikungunya symptoms. Besides, the doctor would ask you to consume a lot of fluids and take plenty of rest to recover soon. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are never administered to chikungunya patients. The other treatment for controlling the infection are:
Monitoring blood pressure
Blood transfusion to combat blood loss
Electrolyte and Intravenous(IV) fluid replacement
Tips To Prevent Chikungunya
Now that you know chikungunya is a self-remitting illness and there is no particular treatment for this, the best that can be done is prevention. To prevent this infection, you must take certain necessary steps to avoid coming in contact with the chikungunya virus and prevent the disease.
- If you have any swimming pool or water resource that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, you must get it cleaned at regular intervals. This is not just for chikungunya but also for other mosquito-borne disease prevention.
- If there are natural or artificial sites with water storage, write to the authorities to get them cleaned. You can also opt for insecticide treatments at frequent intervals especially during the breeding season.
- Insecticide sprays must also be done to kill flying mosquitoes.
- Avoid collection of water in tubs, containers, pots, etc. Empty them during the rainy season.
- Minimise skin exposure and wear full-sleeved clothes when going outdoors.
- Apply mosquito repellents to the exposed parts of the skin.
- Be cautious when visiting parks and greener areas.
- Keep mosquito-repelling plants at doors and windows.
- Keep the windows closed during the day.
- Use mosquito nets while sleeping.
- Use smokeless coils and mosquito-bat to kill mosquitoes around you.
- Frequently change the water in flower pots to prevent breeding in them.
- If you are someone who gets mosquito bites easily, use unscented skincare products as mosquitoes get attracted to fragrances.
- Grow lemongrass and marigold to repel insects including mosquitoes.