We’ve all heard about mosquito-borne illnesses such as Malaria, Dengue, and West Nile. But there’s a relatively new virus that is garnering a “buzz” around the globe. It’s called Chikungunya, and it has infected more than 1 million people in the last year—including Lindsay Lohan. Here’s what you need to know about this mosquito-born illness…
It’s pronounced “chik-en-gun-ye,” which is an African word that translates to “that which bends up.” This translation speaks to one of its most noteworthy symptoms – joint pain. Scientists believe this virus originated from chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1950’s. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes (the same pesky pests that spread Dengue), by feeding on an infected person, and transmitting their blood to another victim.
While this disease has been around for a number of decades, up until recently it has mostly stayed outside of the Americas. From 2006 to 2013, only about 28 cases of Chikungunya were reported in the United States each year. However, a total of 4,462 cases were reported in the United States and United States territories in 2014 alone.
While this number is a huge increase from years past, the Center for Disease Control does not anticipate an overwhelming outbreak. “CDC officials believe chikungunya will behave like dengue virus in the United States, where imported cases have resulted in sporadic local transmission but have not caused widespread outbreaks,” the agency said in a statement.
Chikungunya symptoms usually appear about 4-7 days after a person is bitten. The most common symptoms tend to be flu-like, and include headaches, fever, body aches, rashes, joint pain, and joint swelling. It’s estimated that about 90% of people that contract the virus will develop symptoms.
At this point, there is no treatment for Chikungunya. Doctors typically subscribe fever-reducing medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Most people who are infected will begin to feel better after a week. A small number of people may continue to experience joint pain for months following the bite. Less than 0.5% of cases will result in fatality. Newborns, people over 65, and people struggling with diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure are most at risk.
One of the best ways to avoid Chikungunya is to avoid getting bitten! The CDC recommends taking the following precautions:
- Use insect repellent.
- Cover up exposed skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Consider treating clothing and gear such as boots and tents with the repellent permethrin.
- Stay and sleep in rooms with screens or air conditioning.
- Use bed nets if you are sleeping outdoors.
- Here are some