Chikungunya is a relatively rare form of viral fever caused by an alphavirus that is spread by mosquito bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, though recent research by the Pasteur Institute in Paris claims the virus has suffered a mutation that enables it to be transmitted by Aedes albopictus (Tiger mosquito). This was the cause of the plague in the Indian Ocean and a threat to the Mediterranean coast at present, requiring urgent meetings of health officials in France, Italy, and Spain.

    The name is derived from the Makonde word meaning "that which bends up" in reference to the stooped posture developed as a result of the arthritic symptoms of the disease. The disease was first described by Marion Robinson[1] and W.H.R. Lumsden[2] in 1955, following an outbreak on the Makonde Plateau, along the border between Tanganyika and Mozambique, in 1952. Chikungunya is closely related to O'nyong'nyong virus[3].

    Chikungunya is generally not fatal. However, in 2005-2006, 200 deaths have been associated with chikungunya on Réunion island and a widespread outbreak in India (especially in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh). Andhra Pradesh saw a huge outbreak which spread to neighbouring states. As of September 2006, after the flood and heavy rains in Rajasthan in August 2006, India, thousands of cases have been detected in Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Udaipur, and Chittorgarh districts and also in adjoining regions of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

    The European Network for Diagnostics of "Imported" Viral Diseases (ENIVD) claims new phylogenetic variants of virus which are fatal have been identified on Réunion.

    As of October 12, 2006 in the southern Indian state of Kerala, 125 deaths are attributed to Chikungunya and majority of the casualties were reported in the district of Alapuzha [mainly in Cherthala Taluk]. This latest outbreak in Alappuzha is supposed to have transferred from Parassala, the southernmost point of Kerala state where a recent outbreak was reported before the episodes of Alappuzha started. Kerala government has termed this as an epidemic outbreak, whereas the Tamil Nadu government has denied that the deaths caused in the state were due to chikungunya.

  • Symptoms
    The Aedes aegypti mosquito
    The Aedes aegypti mosquito
  • The symptoms of Chikungunya include fever which can reach 39°C, (102.2°F) a petechial or maculopapular rash usually involving the limbs and trunk, and arthralgia or arthritis affecting multiple joints which can be debilitating. The symptoms could also include headache, conjunctival infection, and slight photophobia. In the present epidemic in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, India, high fever and crippling joint pain are the prevalent complaint. The fever typically lasts for two days and abruptly comes down. However, other symptoms, namely joint pain, intense headache, insomnia and an extreme degree of prostration last for a variable period, usually for about 5 to 7 days.
  • Dermatological manifestations observed in a recent outbreak of Chikungunya fever in Southern India (Dr. Arun Inamadar, Dr. Aparna Palit, Dr.V.V. Sampagavi, Dr. Raghunath S, Dr. N.S. Deshmukh), Western India (Surat) (Western India reported by Dr. Buddhadev) and Eastern India (Puri) (Dr. Milon Mitra et al) includes the following:
    • Maculopapular rash
    • Nasal blotchy erythema
    • Freckle-like pigmentation over centro-facial area
    • Flagellate pigmentation on face and extremities
    • Lichenoid eruption and hyperpigmentation in photodistributed areas
    • Multiple aphthous-like ulcers over scrotum, crural areas and axilla.
    • Lympoedema in acral distribution (bilateral/unilateral)
    • Multiple ecchymotic spots (Children)
    • Vesiculobullous lesions (infants)
    • Subungual hemorrhage
    • Photo Urticaria
    • Acral Urticaria
  • Pedal oedema (swelling of legs) is observed in many patients, the cause of which remains obscure as it not related to any cardiovascular, renal or hepatic abnormalities.
  • Treatment

  • There is no specific treatment for Chikungunya. Vaccine trials were carried out in 2000, but funding for the project was discontinued and there is no vaccine currently available. A serological test for Chikungunya is available from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • Chloroquine is gaining ground as a possible treatment for the symptoms associated with Chikungunya and as an antiviral agent to combat the Chikungunya virus. According to the University of Malaya, "In unresolved arthritis refractory to aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, chloroquine phosphate (250 mg/day) has given promising results." [1] Research by Italian scientist, Andrea Savarino, and his colleagues in addition a French government press release in March 2006 [2] have added more credence to the claim that chloroquine may be effective in treating Chikungunya. The CDC fact sheet on Chikungunya advises against using Aspirin. Ibuprofen, Naproxen and other non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs are recommended for arthritic pain and fever.
  • Infected persons should limit further exposure to mosquito bites, stay indoors and under a mosquito net. Further, "supportive care with rest is indicated during the acute joint symptoms. Movement and mild exercise tend to improve stiffness and morning arthralgia, but heavy exercise may exacerbate rheumatic symptoms." [3]
  • The Homoeopathic system of medicine claims to have medicines as well as preventives against this disease.The effect of these medicines are not scientifically proved. They claim to have used these effectively in recent out breaks in Kerala state of India.
  • The unani medicines (Herbal) are giving much relief in joint pains. [4]
  • Ayurvedic medicine for Chicken Gunia is getting cured within a week. Three medicines are required: Sudarsan Churna – 2 spoons, Yogiraj Googgle – 2 tabs (these two medicines are available in all Ayurvedic shops), Dry red grapes - (4 pieces) should be boiled in 250 ml of COW's Milk (not awain) add little (25-50 ml) water also (so that gas will not be formed). No need to add sugar. The milk should be drunk and the dry grapes should be eaten (remove the seeds). It can be taken same as above i.e, two times. All these should be taken in the morning in empty stomach, and in evening before bed (1 hour before). If you follow it continuously for one week you can see the difference. Although the disease goes away the remaining medicines should be taken till it finishes. [5]
  • Epidemiology

  • Chikungunya was first described in Tanzania, Africa in 1952. An outbreak of chikungunya was also discovered in Port Klang in Malaysia in 1999 affecting 27 people [6] [7].
  • Preventive measures

  • The most effective means of prevention are those that protect against any contact with the disease-carrying mosquitos. These include using insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin, wearing long sleeves and pants, and securing screens on windows and doors. It's also important to empty stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. [8].
  • Linguistic derivation

  • According to Lumsden's initial 1955 report about the epidemiology of the disease, the term chikungunya is derived from the Makonde root verb kungunyala, meaning to dry up or become contorted. In concurrent research, Robinson glossed the Makonde term more specifically as "that which bends up." Subsequent authors apparently overlooked the references to the Makonde language and assumed that the term derived from Swahili, the lingua franca of the region. The erroneous attribution of the term as a Swahili word has been repeated in numerous print sources; Google lists over 15,000 results in a search for "chikungunya swahili". Many other spellings and forms of the term are in common use including "Chicken guinea" and Chickengunya.


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