Table of Contents
What Is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite. Chikungunya disease usually causes fever, and joint pain along with rashes, headaches, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Chikungunya is considered a non-threatening disease. Complications and death from this disease are rare but not completely improbable. Those vulnerable to these complications are usually older adults above the age of 65 years, pregnant people, children, and infants. People who have medical issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease may also be at risk of complications.
In India, the first chikungunya outbreak was recorded in Kolkata in 1963. No outbreaks as such were recorded from 1975 till 2005. After almost 30 years, an outbreak was reported across 8 Indian states in the December of 2005. It was considered a tropical disease for the longest time, but outbreaks have been recorded in countries like Italy, France, Croatia, and the Caribbean islands since 2007.
Chikungunya Is Caused by Which Mosquito?
Chikungunya, like dengue, is a viral disease and the virus needs a host to thrive. In both these cases, it is a human body. The virus is transferred from a mosquito carrying the chikungunya virus to a healthy person’s body. The mosquitos found to be the carriers of this virus are the adult female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito. The cycle of disease transmission continues as the mosquitoes move around feeding on the blood of different people.
Causes of Chikungunya
Rare cases of blood borne transmission of chikungunya virus have been recorded. This can happen if there is sharing of injection needles, through blood transfusion, and organ transplant. In utero transmission of chikungunya has also been found, so have been the cases of the mother’s virus infecting the child during delivery.
To understand chikungunya causes better, knowing these facts can be helpful:
- The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos usually breed in containers or areas where there is clean water collected. This could be any place like bamboo stumps, flowerpots, birdbaths, and tyres.
- The Aedes aegypti has been found to breed closer to human habitation and urban setting and has been found to breed indoors as well. They can also lay eggs in water container and storage tanks.
- Adult female mosquitoes can lay eggs just on the interior lining of water-filled containers, above the surface of the liquid. Eggs cling to container walls like glue and can withstand drying out for at least eight months. This characteristic allows the eggs to survive winters and severe weather.
- Aedes mosquitoes prefer to feed on human blood in the day, from early in the morning to late in the afternoon outdoors. Both mosquitoes hold a strong preference for human blood.
- The mosquito consumes the virus after it bites an infected person. The virus, however, does not kill the bug, but instead replicates inside its stomach. The mosquito with a virus in their salivary glands will spread the disease by injecting infectious saliva into the host.
A single drop of blood can contain up to 1 million viruses due to the virus’s aggressive replication during infection. The mosquito is thought to be able to spread the virus for the remainder of its life once it becomes infected.
Mosquitoes of all types are known to breed the most during summer and rainy seasons, and with the chikungunya’s mosquito larvae being robust enough to survive harsh conditions, this disease’s prevalence can extend till the winter too. Leaving arms and legs uncovered during mosquito-borne disease season can increase your susceptibility to chikungunya.
We often forget to empty hollow vessels containing water indoors but especially outdoors.
Why Should We Learn About the Causes of Chikungunya?
Learning about how this viral disease spreads, how the mosquitoes transmit the infection is essential to take adequate preventive measures for the future. Even though chikungunya is a non-fatal disease, it can leave you with joint pain even after you have recovered. Precaution is better than cure, and literacy around these types of diseases only helps us progress towards caution. It also encourages community effort towards preventing such diseases. Communities can come together and push for a clean and safe environment by demanding mosquito larva and adult bug control and surveillance against the disease threat.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Chikungunya
Because the symptoms of chikungunya and dengue can be similar, laboratory testing is the best. During the first week of the disease, a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test can be used to determine whether you have the chikungunya virus precisely.
A blood test will be prescribed to check for IgG and IgM anti-chikungunya antibodies, requiring the collection of a sample of your blood. The test is referred to as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The IgM anti-body is most abundant in the first three to five weeks, but it can even be detected two months after the initial illness.
With quick and adequate treatment, the symptoms can go away within a week. Death through the chikungunya disease is mostly rare. However, the joint pain from chikungunya can remain for as long as a month. There is no vaccine to counter chikungunya as of now, and there is no specific treatment plan that is available. Your doctor will aim to reduce your fever and ease your joint pain. Analgesics like paracetamol will be prescribed to keep the fever down and relieve pain. Because chikungunya and dengue can have the same symptoms, you will be advised to avoid aspirin so there’s no blood loss. Resting and having enough sleep are also essential.
Additionally, you will be instructed to stay hydrated, as a fever can lead to fluid loss and dehydration. To rehydrate and restore your electrolytes, you can either drink water, fruit juices, soups, yoghurt-based beverages, coconut water, or oral rehydration solution (ORS).
Hospitalisation will be required if the infection is severe and if there are any unexpected complications due to prior medical issues. Your medical team will administer intravenous (IV) fluid replacement and electrolyte replacement while routinely checking your blood pressure. If the patient is vomiting, bleeding, perspiring, or even having diarrhoea, fluid replacement is required to prevent dehydration.