Chikungunya (chik·un·gun·ya) virus or CHIKV is an infection spread by a two types of Aedes mosquitoes, the yellow fever and Asian tiger species. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit Dengue and Zika virus. The name “chikungunya” derives from the Tanzanian word meaning “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain. The virus is spread when a mosquito bites (feeds on) an infected individual then passes it on to a non-infected person on a subsequent bite. The Asian tiger mosquito has gradually become the dominant species in the US and is recognized for its ability to survive colder temperatures, therefore posing risk for infection spread into Florida and southeast USA. In 2019, Chikungunya virus infections were identified in 26 US states.
Most patients who become infected develop high fever and joint pains within approximately a week. The severity varies but some patients experience debilitating aches which continue for years. The pain is caused by the immune system attacking itself causing inflammation of the tissue. Other symptoms of CHIKV viruses include:
- Muscle pain
- Pink eye
- Bent posture
Rare complications can occur. Infants and elderly adults are at highest risk for:
- Retinitis (inflammation of the retina in the eye which can cause permanent damage)
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle which can lead to heart failure)
- Cranial nerve injury leading to facial pain, dizziness, hearing loss, facial twitch
Prevention methods include:
- Mosquito repellent (DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus applied to skin; permethrin applied to clothing)
- When practical, wear long sleeves and pants when exposed to Aedes mosquitoes
- When traveling to other countries, stay in places with air conditioning, window and door screens, netting
- Isolate the infected person from mosquitoes to prevent a fresh bite which can lead to spread to the next person
There is currently no antiviral therapy approved for Chikungunya. Treatments are focused on helping to relieve symptoms and spread.
Due to public health concerns over the potential for disease outbreak, the FDA granted “Fast Track” status in 2018 for development of the first effective and safe vaccine to prevent virus spread. You can help improve the future of medicine by participating in clinical trials. To learn more about participating in clinical research, visit our enrolling studies page or call us today!