What is it and How Do You Get It?

Chikungunya fever is a VIRAL disease transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti, same as Dengue).  The virus is called Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV). 

Infected humans are the main carriers and multipliers of the virus, serving as a source of the virus for uninfected mosquitoes. The virus circulates in the blood of infected humans for two to seven days, at approximately the same time that they have a fever; Aedes mosquitoes may become infected with the virus when they feed on an individual during this period.

Click HERE for the geographic distribution map of the virus.

Can you prevent getting it?

The best way to prevent Chikungunya virus infection is to avoid mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or preventive drug currently available, but a promising vaccine for CHIKV is currently being developed as of 2020, but not yet available. Prevention tips are similar to those for other viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as Dengue or West Nile:

  • Use insect repellent containing lemon eucalyptus oil, like Repel (www.repel.com), or a spray called Bite Blocker, with soybean, geranium and castor oil, on exposed skin if you're going to be outside a long time.  Always follow the directions on the package.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants if you can.
  • Have secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito sources in your yard by emptying anything with standing water or changing water frequently.  
  • Additionally, a person with Chikungunya fever should limit their exposure to mosquito bites to avoid further spreading the infection.  The person should use repellents when outdoors exposed to mosquito bites or stay indoors in areas with screens or under a mosquito net.

What are the symptoms?

Chikungunya virus infection can cause debilitating illness, most often characterized by fever, joint pain, muscle pain, rash, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. The incubation period (time from infection to illness) can be two to twelve days, but is usually three to seven days.

“Silent” Chikungunya virus infections (infections without illness) do occur, but how commonly this happens is not yet known.  Chikungunya virus infection (whether clinically apparent or silent) is thought to produce life-long immunity. But like influenza, the virus is prone to mutations, so it is possible to contract the disease again with a mutated version of the virus. Acute Chikungunya fever typically lasts a few days to two weeks, but as with Dengue, some patients have prolonged fatigue lasting several weeks.  Additionally, some patients have reported incapacitating joint pain, or arthritis, which may last for weeks or months.  Fatalities related to Chikungunya virus are rare and appear to be associated with increased age.

How do you treat it?

            Since there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment currently available for Chikungunya fever.  Infected persons should:

  1. Use analgesics (pain relievers) with acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  2. AVOID taking ibuprofen, Naproxen, aspirin or aspirin containing drugs.
  3. Rest, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, avoid mosquito bites while having a fever and consult a physician.
  4. Be protected from further mosquito exposure (staying indoors in areas with screens and/or under a mosquito net) during the first few days of the illness so they cannot contribute to the transmission cycle.