What is chikungunya; know the warning signs and symptoms, causes and treatment | Health

With the onset of monsoon, chikungunya cases have been on rise and it is imperative to safeguard yourself from this deadly mosquito-borne illness that can play havoc with your bone and joint health in long run. Chikungunya shares some common signs with dengue and Zika, and can be misdiagnosed. People with chronic ailments like diabetes and heart issues and those over 65 years of age should especially be careful as they are more susceptible to get this illness. (Also read: Dengue: Warning signs that your infection is getting worse)

Chikungunya virus is an arthropod-borne alphavirus transmitted by mosquitoes that causes severe pain in several joints of the body and causes inflammatory arthritis as well as acute cutaneous eruptions and other systemic manifestations. It is transmitted by the mosquito vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It can rarely also be transmitted via maternal-fetal transmission and blood products.

Symptoms of chikungunya

“Patients with chikungunya fever typically develop viremia within a few days of infection, and the virus directly invades and replicates within the joints. Chronic arthritis due to chikungunya virus develops in up to approximately 60 per cent of infected individuals. Arthralgia or pain in joints is a prominent feature of acute symptomatic chikungunya virus infection and is the first symptom in about 70 per cent of patients,” says Dr BN Singh, Principal Consultant Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.

Skin issues due to chikungunya

Skin manifestations have been reported in 40 to 75 per cent of patients. The most common skin manifestation is macular or maculopapular rash (usually appearing three days or after onset of illness and lasting three to seven days).

How deadly is chikungunya

“Severe complications and death have been reported during chikungunya outbreaks. These occur more often among patients more than 65 years and patients with underlying chronic medical problems (eg, most commonly diabetes and cardiovascular disease),” says Dr Singh.

How is chikungunya diagnosed

– The diagnosis of chikungunya is established by detection of chikungunya viral RNA via real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or chikungunya virus serology.

– Prominent arthralgia, high fever, diffuse rash, and absence of respiratory symptoms can help to distinguish chikungunya from other illnesses.

– The differential diagnosis includes mimics of acute chikungunya virus infection as well as mimics of chronic conditions associated with arthritis such as dengue, zika, reactive arthritis. Treatment is mainly supportive with prevention of complications.


According to WHO, there is no vaccine or specific drug against the virus and the treatment is focused on relieving the disease symptoms.

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