Knowing more about Chikungunya


A vector-borne disease caused by mosquito bites has been in the news in India. Also known as Chikungunya, the mosquito-borne viral disease is caused by the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). First described in the 1950s in Tanzania, the disease is mainly prevalent in tropical environments in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Chikungunya originates from the African Makonde language, which means “bent over in pain.”


Having similar symptoms to dengue and Zika, Chikungunya is often misdiagnosed. Sporadic incidents of Chikungunya have been reported from various parts of the country. Weather plays a crucial role in spreading Chikungunya, which is more prevalent in India after the monsoon season.



Chikungunya is transmitted by Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti and Aedes (Stegomyia) albopictus. The mosquitoes are also responsible for dengue and Zika viruses, usually biting during the day. These mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. 


An uninfected mosquito sucking blood from an infected person gets the virus replicated within it over several days. It eventually reaches its salivary glands, which transmit to a new human host when the mosquito bites it.



Fever and severe joint pains are associated with Chikungunya. Swelling of joints, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rashes are common symptoms. The fever lasts almost two weeks; however, joint and muscle pains, also called chronic chikungunya arthritis, can exist for months altogether. Unlike dengue, where the platelet count drops drastically, in the case of Chikungunya, the platelet count may drop slightly. Rashes usually appear during the first two to three days of the onset of the disease.



There is no specific treatment available and no vaccines either. Primary laboratory tests are conducted to diagnose infection in serum almost six days after the onset of the disease. Various RT-PCR kits are available in the market to run tests. With no specific treatment, the fever may subside on its own. However, precautions must be taken, and a visit to the doctor is a must if conditions deteriorate.



Like any other vector-related disease, precautions must be taken to ensure the carriers cannot spread the disease. Using a mosquito net, mosquito repellents, fully covered clothes, etc, will keep mosquitoes at bay. Taking a lot of fluids, including milk, helps Chikungunya patients recover fast. Cleaning standing water occasionally and reducing mosquito breeding sites will help keep mosquitoes at bay.