If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room
As I am writing this post there has been an outbreak of Chikunngunya in Delhi, the capital city of India which has caused a lot of panic among people. Most of us might have heard that it’s a disease caused by mosquito bite and so is dengue and malaria. While malaria is a disease caused by protozoa, dengue and Chikungunya are caused by virus. And to add to the panic there is no known and approved vaccination for Chikungunya. In contrast to the dengue virus which circulates in primates only, Chikungunya virus circulates in a number of animals which makes it even more transmittable. The only thing the doctor can suggest other than Paracetamol for fever and pain, and Histol for rashes is to rest and more rest.
Meaning of the word Chikungunya
The word Chikungunya is believed to be derived from an African language which means “that which bends up”. It is also known as “Sandhijwara” in India which translates to “fever of the joints” because of the fact that people are affected with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with this disease. The primary transmission agent for Chikungunya virus is the two species of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
Do you need to worry ?
Aedes mosquito also known as yellow fever mosquito has evolved over the years and adapted itself for effective biting of humans. These mosquitoes have developed stealth mode. They have reduced humming of wings while approaching humans, they attack from below for minimal detection, they bite during the day time, they need only about 2-3 ml of water for breeding and their eggs can remain dormant for up to an year. These mosquitoes can even pass the infection to its next generation.
As per many people who had firsthand experience of being infected, the virus takes two distinct phases. The initial phase or the acute phase which lasts for about 10 days starts with the onset of high fever and the chronic phase that lasts 4-5 months and sets in during the recovery.
In the acute phase a person suffers from symptoms such as
- Redness in eye and difficulty in looking at light
- Severe fever with headache, backache and joint pain
- Rashes and hyper pigmentation on limbs and trunks
- Photo phobia, vomiting, diarrhea in case of children
When it comes to symptoms there is a little difference between the symptoms of dengue and Chikungunya except for the fact that in dengue a platelet count depletion sets in at later stages.
The chronic phase is the phase of 4-5 months of extended period of pain and swelling in the joints following the recovery from the fever. This extended period of pain is due to the auto immune response of our body. Post Chikungunya multiple joints can be affected with arthritis for a very long period of time. At the end of this phase you start showing symptoms of getting well. The joint pain decreases significantly and the pain is no longer distracting or depressing. Some days you will feel completely pain free.
Diagnosis of Chikungunya
Blood test is the only reliable test in order to diagnose Chikungunya as the symptoms are similar to many other more deadly diseases. Virus isolation provides the most definitive diagnosis but takes two weeks for completion. ELISA blood test is used to diagnose Chikungunya as a serological diagnosis and gives result in 3-5 days but the drawback is that there can be a false positive. Doctors start the treatment with the treatment on the basis of clinical, epidemiological and laboratory criteria.
Treatment of Chikungunya
There is no antiviral drug or medicine specifically for Chikungunya. In most of the cases Chikungunya is cured by the immune system of the body. The treatment is usually for the symptoms such as high fever and joint pain. Sufficient rest and more fluids in the food are suggested to the patients. In the allopath, passive immunotherapy has a potential benefit in the treatment of Chikungunya.
Controlling mosquitoes is tough. It’s not quick; it’s not easy. It requires work day in and day out to track where mosquitoes are and to apply safely the appropriate mosquito control methods. – Tom Frieden
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) as we know spreads by the bite of an infected mosquito of the species Aedes which is an aggressive biter and a household breeder. Prevention of the mosquito bite is therefore the most effective way to keep yourself away from the harms of Chikungunya. Prevention can be effectively done using the following tips.
- Use of mosquito repellent on the exposed skin.
- Covering the body with clothes whenever possible.
- Keeping the windows and doors shut or protected with screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Getting rid of breeding sites by not allowing the stagnant water in any place including pet dishes, flower pot, buckets etc.
- Limiting the exposure of both the infected and the non-infected members in the family to the mosquitoes.