Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, first detected during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952. The name comes from the African language Makonde and means “bowed or writhed in pain”, referring to the patients' appearance.
Viral infection presents in acute form (with abrupt symptoms of high fever, severe joint pain, headache, and muscle pain, skin rashes may occur) and can progress to the stages: of subacute (with persistent joint pain) and chronic (with persistent joint pain for months or years).
Today, chikungunya has been identified in more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Chikungunya vector mosquitoes have spread across Europe and the Americas in recent decades. In 2007, the disease transmission was first reported during an outbreak in northwest Italy. Since then, outbreaks have also been reported in France and Croatia.
In the American continent, the case number reported up to 2015 was 37,480 and the suspected cases number was 693,489. There were about 356,079 cases in Colombia alone.
The lethality of chikungunya, according to the Pan American Health Organization, is rare, being less frequent than in dengue fever cases. On the other hand, the disease has a great social impact because of the high number of cases; the inability to work, sometimes for a long term; the consequences of the side effects of inappropriate medications; and the consequences of not obtaining an accurate diagnosis.
Chikungunya is caused by a virus, transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, with Aedes Aegypti (dengue fever transmitter) and Aedes Albopictus being the main vectors.
Chikungunya causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash. Joint pain is sometimes debilitating and can vary in duration. Most patients recover completely, but in some cases, joint pain can persist for several months or even years.
The diagnosis is made by laboratory tests or by the symptoms analysis and symptoms presented and by the presence of the person in areas with detection of the transmitting mosquito or with cases of dengue in the 14 days before the start of the condition.
There is no specific medication against chikungunya fever, but the symptoms can be relieved with the use of pain or fever medicines, prescribed by the doctor. Medicines based on acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin, Melhoral, AAS) and anti-inflammatory drugs should not be used, as they may increase the risk of bleeding. There is still no commercial vaccine for chikungunya.
The mosquito breeding proximity sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya. To prevent virus transmission, people must reinforce the actions to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
The measures are the same for the control of dengue fever, that is, verifying if the water tank is properly closed; do not accumulate containers in the yard; checking that the gutters are not clogged; and putting sand in the dishes of the plant pots, among other similar initiatives.