Chikungunya Alert for the United States

New guidelines have recently been issued in respect of the spread of the vector borne disease, Chikungunya. A chikungunya alert has been sounded for the United States, whereas we think of the disease as being a tropical disease found in the lesser developed regions of the world.

Chikungunya Alert for the United States

Why America is at risk

This disease is caused by a virus that is spread by mosquitoes or vectors which has till date infected as many as 2 million people worldwide. The very fact that Americans have not been exposed to Chikungunya so far is what puts them at specific risk of the infection.

Even though the disease is vector borne, it is not inconceivable that the mosquitoes could travel to the western hemisphere and so people of developed nations also need to get educated about it.

People need to become aware of the symptoms of the disease as well as the importance of preventing mosquito bites. If mosquito bites do occur they shouldn’t be ignored and treatment should be started promptly.

What are the symptoms of chikungunya?

A person gets infected when they are bitten by a mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. This is what is called a human-mosquito-human transmission.

Very high fever of about 104° F (40° C) is usually the first symptom which is seen after an incubation period of 2 to 5 days. The symptoms can, in cases, be similar to dengue fever. Conjunctivitis, headache and some amount of photophobia may also be noted in some cases.

Even after the fever abates (usually about two days) other severe symptoms are usually seen – intense joint pain, great weakness, insomnia and severe headaches. The symptom of joint pain, in particular, is sometimes seen to last as long as a couple of years.

Chikungunya prevention

Mainly, it is people who are traveling to areas where the infection is endemic who have to be careful about infection. Since there is currently no chikungunya vaccine available, people who are traveling to such places have to be careful about preventing mosquito bites.

Using mosquito nets for sleeping, using insect repellant creams and other products as well as wearing clothes that cover the body fully are some measures that should be taken. One can also use specialized clothing that is treated with pyrethroids, which are a class of insect repellant. Screening doors and windows is seen to have limited efficacy since one is more likely to get bitten out of doors.