Chikungunya: What you should know

Member Services
August 28, 2015
Categories: Health, Travel Tips

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 10, 2015 


If you haven’t heard of chikungunya yet, you will soon. The mosquito-transmitted disease chikungunya has made quite a few headlines recently:

--A woman in the U.S. lost vision in one eye after contracting the disease in the Caribbean.

--Mexico reported more than 3,000 cases across 16 states.

--The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in Spain.

--Nicaragua reported its first death from the disease.

What is chikungunya and can it be prevented?

Chikungunya is a painful but largely non-lethal disease that causes severe joint pain and fever. The disease is often mistaken for dengue fever, which mirrors both its symptoms and geographic distribution. Like dengue, chikungunya is spread by the Aedes family of mosquito. The disease is rarely lethal except in vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young, and immunocompromised.

For someone bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms typically start within 4-8 days. Older patients can also be misdiagnosed as having arthritis due to joint pain being the most prominent symptom. Most patients will feel better within a week of symptoms starting.  While most people recover fully from the virus, some do have lasting joint pain for months or even years after infection. 

Chikungunya originated in East Africa and has spread throughout the continent and to South and Southeast Asia. In the past year, the virus has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean and into Latin America. Isolated cases of the virus have also been reported in Europe and North America after travelers returned from endemic areas. In recent months, there has been an uptick in cases in southern states, including Florida. As of February 2015, there were at least 1.24 million cases of chikungunya in the Americas.[1]

While progress is being made, there is currently no vaccine or cure for chikungunya. Treatments for the disease focus on decreasing symptoms with fluids and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.

The best way to prevent infection? Avoid mosquito bites altogether, sincemosquitoes are the primary means of transmission.

To help avoid mosquito bites:

--Make sure that any open doors or windows have fully intact screens.
--Use bug spray. When going outside, wear bug repellent such as DEET or Permethrin.
--Wear long sleeves and pants to make it difficult for mosquitoes to bite you.
--Reduce the breeding grounds of mosquitoes in and near your home by getting rid of any standing water in areas like pools, gutters, or flower pots.
--If you become infected, continue to avoid contact with mosquitoes to reduce the spread of the disease.

While the headlines about chikungunya will likely continue, following these precautionary steps can help ensure that you don’t become infected.

For more information, review the CDC Fact Sheet. Contact Global Rescue Operations with any questions at 617-459-4200 or operations@globalrescue.com.


[1] From MedPage Today


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