What is chikungunya fever?
Chikungunya fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes.
The most common symptoms include fever, severe joint pains and rash. Usually infected persons recover fully, but some patients can develop long-lasting arthritis.
Chikungunya fever is primarily spread by Aedes aegyptiand also by Aedes albopictus, two mosquito species which can also transmit other diseases, including dengue. These mosquitoes are active during the day, hence, protective measures should be taken in daytime. Both mosquito species are usually biting outdoors, but Aedes aegyptiwill also readily feed indoors.
Travellers returning from endemic areas should seek medical care if they have chikungunya compatible symptoms upon their return.
Clinicians can request laboratory tests to confirm a possible chikungunya fever diagnosis.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for chikungunya fever. The treatment is symptomatic, analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed to relieve the symptoms.
Risk of infection and how to avoid it
The risk of transmission of chikungunya virus is the result of simultaneous presence of the mosquito vectors Aedes aegyptiand/or Aedes albopictus, presence of the virus and susceptible population.
The risk of chikungunya fever spreading in EU is possible due to importation through infected travelers and at the same time the presence of competent mosquito vectors in many countries (particularly around the Mediterranean coast), as it happened with outbreaks in Italy in 2007 and in France in 2014.
Individuals living in or travelling to endemic regions should take the following protective measures against mosquito bites, especially during the day,when the mosquitos are active:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers;
- Use mosquito repellents, coils or other devices that will help fend off mosquitoes. Ask your doctor for specific options for protection, particularly if you are pregnant, if you have immune disorders or severe chronic illnesses, or if you have children under 12 years as the use of most mosquito repellents is not advised;
- If possible, sleep under bed nets pre-treated with insecticides;
- If possible, use window/door screens.
Endemic regions and outbreaks in the world
Chikungunya fever is endemic in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Pacific Region and most probably in the (sub) tropical regions of the Americas.
Chikungunya fever has caused numerous epidemics in Africa and Asia. After a major outbreak occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2005-2006, with further spread in the India sub-continent and Southeast Asia, imported cases were found in continental Europe and North America.
In 2007, an outbreak of autochthonous chikungunya virus infection took place for the first time in Europe in Italy, with more than 200 cases. In 2010 and 2014, a few autochthonous cases linked to imported cases were reported in France.
In December 2013, chikungunya fever emerged in the Caribbean and quickly spread in the Americas. It also spread in the Southern Pacific region.