What to do with chikungunya

Not much is still known about chikungunya, though rates of the illness have been rising every year. We look at some facts you should know.

The rising cases of malaria and dengue have rightly struck fear in the hearts of people. It is by now known that a single bite from an infected mosquito can cause both these illnesses. However, what is not as widely known is that a third similar vector borne infection, chikungunya, is also caused the same way.

In fact, chikungunya is caused by the same mosquitoes that infect you with dengue and malaria. Its symptoms are quite similar as well, so many cases of the illness are either misdiagnosed or underreported.

Here’s what you should know about the symptoms of chikungunya fever:

* There is no cure for it. Prevention is the only cure as yet.

Dengue, malaria and chikungunya are all caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. None of these have a cure yet. So the only way to prevent chikungunya is to prevent mosquitoes from biting you in the first place.

* It is often confused with dengue.

The symptoms of chikungunya fever are quite similar to those of dengue fever. When you develop chikungunya, you get high fever with chills and debilitating bone ache. The illness attacks the major joints of the body: hips, shoulders, knees, elbows and ankles, which is not seen with dengue (that shows overall body ache and headache). You might also experience trouble keeping your food down, or swallowing your food.

* It may even be passed from humans to mosquitoes.

You are aware that dengue and malaria pass from infected mosquitoes to human beings. The same is true of chikungunya as well. But the latter also shows a strange mode of transmission – a perfectly healthy mosquito may bite a person infected with the chikungunya viral strain and become infected! It then becomes a vector that carries the illness and spreads it to other human beings via biting. Thus, with its dual mode of transmission, chikungunya can spread relatively fast within the community.

How to prevent chikungunya

As mentioned earlier, prevention is the only cure for symptoms of chikungunya fever. Mosquitoes, whether infected or otherwise, should not be allowed to come near enough to bite you. For this, you must adopt a few simple measures to deter mosquitoes and kill them.

Keep the indoor air clear and crisp, and let fresh air come in. In the evening hours, close the doors and windows and spray each room with a mosquito killer spray. You can also light a mosquito repellent card under study tables, or on the kitchen floor. When you sleep, be sure to light an electric plug-in vaporiser.