8 Facts You Need to Know about Chikungunya Virus

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If dengue was worrying you enough to keep you from stepping out of your home, here’s another viral disease that you need protection from; chikungunya.

1. Origin

Chikungunya comes from the Makonde language, meaning to “become contorted”, “to walk in a bent over fashion” describing the slouched and bent position of the affected individual due to severe joint pain. It was first seen in the outbreak in South Tanzania in 1952. They exhibit similar characteristics to the Dengue virus, as well as the Zika Virus, therefore being hard to diagnose.

2. Type of Virus

Chikungunya virus is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus of the Alpha genus belonging to the Togaviridae family.

3. Source of Infection

The virus infects the humans through the bite of an infected female mosquito. Two species have been identified as the source of this virus namely Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopticus. Talking about the rare cases, the virus can also be transmitted through the saliva of the infected individual.

4. Site of Infection

Once the virus enters the bloodstream of the individual it affects the endothelial cells (cells lining the walls of the blood vessels), epithelial cells (the cells which constitute the lining of the outer and internal organs) and the primary fibroblasts (the cells which are responsible for the construction of the connective tissue component.

5. Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms generally start to appear after the infected mosquito has bitten the individual. They last for about 3-7 days. The most common symptoms include fever and joint pain. Other symptoms include headache, nausea, muscle pain, appearance of rashes and swelling around the joints. In less common cases, the appearance of maculopapular rashes, nausea, vomiting has been observed along with the above mentioned symptoms. High risk individuals are either infants, adults greater than 65 years of age and with any medical condition (e.g. hypertension).

6. Complications

The complications are very rare, but if they occur, they can prove to be fatal. They include:

  • Retinitis: Inflammation of the retina
  • Myocarditis: Any sort of infection, leading to the inflammation of the heart (myocardium)
  • Uveitis: Inflammation comprising of the inner layer which contains both the sclera and cornea.
  • Hepatits: The liver resulting in inflammation
  • Cranial Nerve Palsies: The cranial nerves lose their function
  • Haemorrhage: Any sort of injury or trauma or ruptured organ may lead to spilling of blood this is what is called as Haemorrhage
  • Nephritis: Inflammation of the kidney (nephron)

7. Chikungunya Prevention

Since the major transfer of this disease is through the bite of an infected mosquito, the preventive measures include those which are normally followed for any other mosquito attack. They include the following measures:-

  • The use of mosquito repellents can do wonders. The chemical named as DEET (N-N-diethyl-meta-toulamide) repels the mosquitoes
  • Cover yourself with clothes
  • Avoid going out, especially during early morning
  • Use insecticides and mosquito coils
  • Sleep under mosquitoes nets

8. Treatment

No specific drugs have been prescribed for this particular disease. The use of acetaminophen and naproxen is greatly seen to treat the complaints of joint pain and fever. In case of long standing signs and symptoms, i.e. aggravated joint pain – might lead to immobility- so for that reason, physiotherapy might be required. Apart from this, the monitoring of fluid intake and rest is essential.

The discovery of a new vaccine for Chikingunya virus is in the works.

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