What Is Chikungunya? Is it the next West Nile Virus?

The Tennessean alerted us to the possible first diagnosis of a new mosquito borne disease ‘chikungunya’.

The Tennessee Department of Health said Tuesday it is investigating the first potential cases of chikungunya virus in the state. It is a mosquito-borne disease that is circulating in the Caribbean. Tennesseans who traveled there are showing symptoms of the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning in December about chikungunya when it was first reported detected on Caribbean islands — the first confirmed cases of the virus being contracted in the Americas.

“This is often a terribly painful and uncomfortable illness with no vaccine to prevent it and no specific treatment for those infected,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. “Recovery can be prolonged, so prevention is the only good option.”

Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain.

Dr. James Crowe Jr., a Vanderbilt University professor and member of the Chikungunya Task Force Global Virus Network, said the disease is likely to become endemic here just as West Nile virus has and could establish a foothold in the United States in the next year.

“It’s just a matter of when, not if it will,” Crowe said.

The disease gets its name from an African language and, roughly translated, means “bent over in pain,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

“The acute phase of the illness is relatively brief,” Schaffner said. “It is less than a week, usually three or four days. But those are three or four very uncomfortable days. Then about 10 percent to 15 percent of people have persistent joint aches and pains that can come and go for months thereafter.”

The disease is not usually fatal.

Outbreaks of chikungunya have occurred in areas across the globe, but as of now there has never been an outbreak in the United States.

What Is Chikungunya?

According to the Center for Disease Control’s homepage for chikungunya has yet to recognize a diagnosis for the disease in the US as of now, but indicates that it expects it.

Chikungunya virus is not currently found in the United States. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

According to the CDC chikungunya is a mosquito transmitted virus infection that will cause fever, headaches, muscle pain, joint swelling, or a rash.  Chikungunya has not been known to be a fatal virus infection. There is no medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection or disease. To decrease the impact of symptoms it is advised to, get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, take medicines (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol) to relieve fever and pain.

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