Chikungunya Fever - Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
There are several insect borne ailments that affect humans and can prove to be serious if proper treatment is not available. One such example is Chikungunya Fever. It was reported for the first time way back in 1952 in southern Tanzania. Now, the virus is found in as many as 60 countries and the virus infects humans through mosquito bites. While the outcome is rarely fatal, the victims undergo prolonged spells of symptoms like joint pain and fever. It is not fatal, but the symptoms may recur in victims. Earlier it was thought to be a tropical ailment, but nowadays it is also found in countries with cold climate.
The causes of Chikungunya
Chikungunya Fever is classified as a viral disease which is transmitted in humans through bite of mosquitoes, mostly Aedesal bopictus and Aedes Aegyptii. These mosquitoes usually bite in daytime. The three major strains of the virus are- Asian, central African and West African. It is an RNA virus.
As it is, the Chikungunya virus needs an agent for transmission. So, it cannot affect humans directly. It spreads when a mosquito bites an infected person and later bites a non-infected person. Incidentally, Chikungunya can affect monkeys and they serve as indirect Chikungunya Causes, more so in African nations. It can affect people from many age groups. Instances of direct human to human infection have not been documented. However, in some rare cases a newborn baby can contract the infection from the mother.
Signs and symptoms of Chikungunya
The major Chikungunya signs and symptoms include severe joint pain and fever. Some victims may also develop signs like fatigue, nausea, headache and rash. The victims may develop red spots which appear on body parts. The joint pain can be quite strong and fever can reach as high as 104 degree Celsius. The symptoms may appear after 2 or 7 days of a mosquito bite. The joint pain and fever can persist for a long time in affected people, for several weeks in some cases.
The symptoms of Dengue and Chikungunya are quite similar, and this may make affected lot confused at times. However, victims of Chikungunya suffer from more intense and prolonged joint pain. Dengue causes bleeding in some victims which does not happen with victims of chikungunya. In most cases, the victims recover fully but some people may continue to suffer from the joint pain, even after traces of virus are eliminated from the body. The severity of signs may vary from one victim to another.
How Chikungunya is diagnosed?
For proper chikungunya diagnosisa number of methods are deployed. These include Serological tests like ELISA test and reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction methods. Plaque reduction neutralization tests are also applied in most cases. Without blood tests, proper diagnosis remains incomplete.
What are the treatment options for chikungunya?
Sadly, there is no specific cure and antiviral drug treatment for this viral ailment. So, treatment for chikungunya is largely limited to relieving the symptoms. No approved commercial vaccine is there though studies are going on to develop one.
Available treatment options include:
The victims largely suffer from extreme and prolonged joint pain. So, doctors often offer NSAID class medications to them to offer relief from the pain. Examples include ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, people should make sure that the ailment they are affected is actually chikungunya and not dengue. This is required because taking these drugs can worsen symptoms in dengue victims.
Rest and sleep:
Sleep and rest can help victims recover. Without adequate sleep and rest your body will not be able to recover.
Lots of fluid intake is advisable for the affected lot.
Since the joint pain caused by this ailment can persist for a long time, doctors suggest application of physiotherapy to relief from pain at times.
Applying massage on body parts with plant oils can be useful in keeping pain under control.
You can apply an ice bag to apply over body joints to numb the sensation of joint pain. You may also wrap ice cubes in a towel and apply that over your body joints.
To keep the body pain caused by the ailment, you may resort to light aerobic exercises. Sometimes trying specific yoga postures can also be helpful.
Lotions and ointments:
Chikungunya can lead to the development of body rash in victims and they can also cause severe itching. To get rid of itching you can apply skin lotion or cream on the affected body parts. However, you should opt for products advised bydoctors rather than using any random OTC cream.
Changes in diet
To ease the joint pain caused by chikungunya, you can include foods and herbs in your diet that have proven anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger and turmeric are two such examples. You can drink ginger tea and use turmeric and ginger to make numerous dishes. Eating chili peppers can also help as it contains capsaicin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
How chikungunya can be prevented?
Since there is no medication for curing this viral ailment, prevention is a better method. As it is transmitted by mosquitoes, you should try to evade contact with the insect by all means to stay away from this ailment.
- Keep the surroundings of the house clear of anything that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Clean water tanks and pools regularly.
- Sue mosquito nets on windows and doors of the house.
- Use mosquito and insect repellent products inside home, including spray and vaporizers.
- Try staying indoors during evenings.
Recent developments for chikungunya vaccine
For a long time, clinical trials are going on to find a suitable vaccine for this ailment. A new vaccine funded by National Institute of Health is now under phase 2 of clinical trial. It is based on virus-like particles rather than weakened viruses.
In another development, Zydus Cadila based in Ahmedabad in alliance with Takeda Pharmaceutical has started initiative to develop a vaccine for chikungunya.