Chikungunya fever is caused by a virus, spread by the Aedes species of mosquito which predominantly bite during the day. These mosquitoes also transmit Dengue fever, Zika virus and Yellow Fever.
Chikungunya is widespread and is currently reported in > 100 countries in Africa, Asia, North, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Outbreaks are common and often occur after the rainy seasons when mosquitoes breed more actively. Localised outbreaks in Italy and France have occurred in recent years but the infection has not become established in Europe.
Symptoms start 1-12 days after the mosquito bite. A high fever is usually accompanied by intense joint pains. A rash, headache, fatigue, nausea and muscle pains may also occur. The illness usually resolves over a few days and serious complications are uncommon. However a proportion of people are left with ongoing joint pains/swelling which may continue for weeks – years.
There is no specific anti-viral treatment for chikungunya virus infection. Symptoms like fever, joint pain and headache can be treated symptomatically. Ongoing joint pains often need anti-inflammatory medications and may need assessment by a joint specialist.
The best way to avoid infection is to prevent prevent mosquito bites. As the transmitting mosquitoes bite from dawn until dusk, long clothing and repellants should be worn all day. Medical attention must be sought for any feverish illness experienced whilst travelling or on your return home.