Topic Overview

What is chikungunya fever?

Chikungunya (say "chick-un-GOON-ya") fever is an illness caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitoes.

You're more likely to get this illness if you travel to parts of the world where it's more common. This includes parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans. More recently, it has also been found in the Caribbean and the Americas.

Travellers can spread this illness. They may go on a trip and get bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. Then they get sick and come home. And if they are bitten again, they can spread the virus to mosquitoes in their home areas.

The mosquitoes that carry this disease bite during daylight hours.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms are fever and very painful joints. The joint pain is often in the hands and feet. Symptoms usually start within a week after the bite.

Some people also have a headache, muscle pain, swollen joints, or a rash.

How is chikungunya fever diagnosed?

You doctor will ask about your symptoms and any recent travel. He or she may order a blood test to make sure you don't have another problem.

How is it treated?

There is no treatment for this illness. Symptoms usually go away on their own after about a week.

Treating your symptoms may help you feel better.

  • Take medicine to reduce the pain and fever. Over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), usually help.
  • Get extra rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

If your pain is very bad, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medicine. A few people have joint pain that lasts for months or even years.

Antibiotics won't help, because this illness is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

How can you prevent chikungunya fever?

There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya fever. But you can protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially when you travel.

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET or icaridin (picaridin). In Canada, DEET is available in strengths up to 30%. For children younger than 12, use a DEET product containing less than 10% strength. Children 6 months and older may use up to 20% icaridin.
  • Spray clothing with DEET or icaridin. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. (Remember that DEET can damage plastic, such as watch crystals, eyeglass frames, and some synthetic fabrics.)
  • Sleep under mosquito netting if you sleep during daylight hours.
  • Use flying-insect spray indoors around sleeping areas.

The most current information about chikungunya fever is available from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO). If you are planning international travel, you can learn about the risk of chikungunya in the area you're travelling to by contacting:

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada at its website (www.publichealth.gc.ca).
  • Your doctor, a travel health clinic, or your local health unit.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Chikungunya: Information for healthcare providers. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/CHIKV_Clinicians.pdf. Accessed January 6, 2015.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Chikungunya: What you need to know. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/Factsheet_Chikungunya-what-you-need-to-know.pdf. Accessed January 6, 2015.
  • Weaver SC, Lecuit M (2015). Chikungunya virus and the global spread of a mosquito-borne disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(13): 1231–1239. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1406035. Accessed April 7, 2015.
  • World Health Organization (2015). Chikungunya. Fact Sheet No. 327. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/. Accessed March 19, 2015.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease

Current as ofJuly 29, 2016