Chikungunya is a disease caused by a virus. It is characterized by fever and severe, often debilitating joint pain. Other symptoms include fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and rash. Symptoms usually occur within 3 to 7 days, but can take up to 12 days to develop. Those affected usually recover within a few days. Joint pain however, may persist for several weeks or even months, in some cases. Complications are more common in infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases (e.g., hypertension, diabetes).
The virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes, which are also known to transmit other infections such as Zika virus and dengue fever. These mosquitoes bite during the day, with peak hours around sunrise and sunset. They can be found around and even inside homes.
There is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Symptom relief includes rest and hydration. Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®), and anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin®, Advil®), may also be recommended to relieve fever and joint pain. For more information, speak to a healthcare professional.
There is no vaccine or medication to prevent chikungunya virus infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites. The following precautions are therefore recommended:
- Apply a repellent that contains DEET or icaridin to exposed skin.
- Avoid scented products.
- If sleeping in a sealed, air conditioned room is not an option, sleep under an insecticide-treated (permethrin) mosquito net.
- Consider wearing insecticide-treated (permethrin) clothing.
- Wear light-coloured, full length clothing.
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