ChikungunyaAlternative names: none Type of infection: viral Incubation period: 2 to 3 days, though it can be up to 12 Mortality rate: usually not fatal Vector: mosquito (both the Aedes albopictus and A. aegypti species) History
Chikungunya was discovered during an outbreak in the 1950s in Mozambique and Tanzania. Because it is not usually fatal, not as much attention as been paid to this disease as with others and there hasn't been much research done regarding it.Catching Chikungunya
It's a typical mosquito-borne virus that can spread as the insects bite an infected person (or carrier animal) and then bites someone else. Other than humans, other animals that can have chikungunya include cattle, rodents, monkeys and some species of birds, which means the disease can spread more rapidly once it enters an area.Signs and Symptoms
Chikungunya is similar to Dengue fever, and the initial symptoms include high fever, joint and muscle pain and headaches. A rash is sometimes present, but not always. It's actually a very short-lived disease in most cases, with symptoms easing off in just a week. In some cases though, the joint pain can persist for many months.
Older patients can develop more severe secondary symptoms that involve the heart or nervous systems, but it's quite rare. There can be meningitis, heart or kidney failure in these cases.Treatment
There is no treatment for chikungunya, other than rest and standard pain relief medications. Keeping the patient hydrated with liquids can also help speed recovery.Prevention
With no vaccine available, the only way to protect against chikungunya is to avoid infected mosquitoes. The usual methods will work fine, wearing long pants and sleeves outdoors during insect season, and wearing repellent. Your home should have good screens on any open windows, or at least sleep with a mosquito net over the bed.Risk Assessment
This is primarily an African and Indian subcontinent disease, but recent years have found cases cropping up in the southern United States (in places like Florida, Georgia, Texas). As with other mosquito-vector diseases, climate change can alter the ecosystems enough that these diseases can spread north as the insects do.
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