Thankfully not yet, but the Chikungunya virus continues to spread with cases now being reported across the Caribbean and in Mexico, and most recently, 2 cases reported in Florida and Georgia. Although not fatal, the virus can be a very painful experience.
The word “Chikungunya is from the Kimakonde language of south east Africa, and literally means ‘to become contorted,’ as it describes the stooped appearance of sufferers joint pain and discomfort.
What Is Chikungunya Virus?
Chikungunya is a viral infection spread to humans by an infected mosquito. The first ever report of the virus was in Tanzania in 1952, but has since spread throughout many parts of the tropical world. The guilty mosquito is the aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus species and can bite during both day and nighttime, indoors and out. This species of mosquito thrives in urban areas in close proximity to buildings.
Where has it been found?
- Across the Caribbean
- Parts of south east Asia
- Puerto Rico
- Georgia, US
- Central & South America
Treatment and Symptoms
Chikungunya infection includes the relatively quick onset of fever and joint pain (specifically hands and feet). Symptoms can start anywhere between 2-12 days after exposure to the virus, and can include additional symptoms of muscle pain, rash, headache and joint swelling.
Most symptoms will subside after a week, but some people may experience prolonged joint discomfort. Doctors will encourage patients to use over the counter analgesics and medication to control fever, and the standard ‘drink more fluids and get plenty of rest,’ avuncular advice.
If you suspect you may have contracted the virus, consult your doctor immediately. They will order blood tests to confirm the presence of the virus or other similar viruses.
Chikungunya Virus Prevention
As there is not currently a vaccine for the virus, your best course of action is to avoid infected areas. While the Caribbean is a popular vacation destination for winter bleary North Americans, it’s best to employ precautions during your vacation.
- Wear protective clothing–long sleeves, long pants and hats treated with insect repellent (DEET, Picaridin, Oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on all exposed skin.)
- Ensure your hotel has fully functioning air conditioning systems, as well as screens on all windows and doors.
- When applicable, use insecticide treated mosquito netting or mosquito coils.
- Observe all local and community warnings when mosquito populations surge.
- If you become infected, it is important you do your best to not infect additional mosquitoes, and thereby infecting other people.