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Chikungunya: Yet Another Virus!

Medic-ALL  (24:10:2014) by Kayode Kuku MB;BS

At a time when the world is agog with the now very popular but deadly "Ebola virus disease", its outbreak in parts of West Africa and recent spread to the United States and Spain, some other parts of the world are having to contend with "Yet Another Viral" disease without a known cure.

The Chikungunya (pronunciation:/ chi-ken-gun-ye: meaning, that which bends over in the "Makonde" language of Tanzania and Mozambique) disease is caused by a mosquito-borne virus (meaning it is transmitted to people by mosquitoes).

The chikungunya virus was documented for the first time, last December in the islands of St Martin in the Caribbeans, even though it is believed to have existed in parts of Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for decades. The major symptoms of the disease include fever (usually over 39°C) and severe joint pain (causing infected persons to bend over), others may include muscle pain, headache, joint swelling, nausea, fatigue or rash. Occasional cases of eye, neurological, heart and gastrointestinal complications have been reported.

According to Dr Lyle Petersen of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the virus has an incubation period (time between exposure to manifestation of first symptom) of about 3-7 days, with a range of about 2-12 days. The acute symptoms could resolve within 7 to 10 days but some patients could develop complications in the coming months.

Nearly 800,000 people have been infected with the Chikungunya virus in the Caribbeans, majority in the Dominican Republic. Jamaica declared a state of emergency last weekend with estimated reports of about 60 percent of the country's population down with the virus and almost 200 persons are documented to be infected with the disease in Canada according to Canadian Health officials. The United States recently reported its first locally-acquired case of the disease in a man in Florida.

                                                Distribution map of Chikungunya in the Americas

As of October 17, 2014, local transmission have been identified in 36 countries or territories in the Caribbeans, Central America, North America and South America, with a total of 759,742 suspected and 14,035 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported from these areas (Updated data from Pan-American Health Organization).

The fear is that the disease may likely continue to spread throughout the Americas through infected people and mosquitoes as the mosquito which carries the virus in found in many parts of the region including the United States. Moreso, the chikungunya virus is new to the continent and many are not immune to it.

Furthermore, as has been the case with the "traveling Ebola" there is definitely the risk of the virus been imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is presently no vaccine nor medicine to prevent or treat the chikungunya virus disease. Travelers are advised to protect themselves when traveling to countries with the virus by preventing mosquito bites with use of insect repellents, insecticide-treated nets, wearing of long sleeves and pant and stay in places with air-conditioning or that use window or door screens.

Though it is estimated that up to 72%-97% of persons infected with the Chikungunya virus will develop clinical symptoms, Mortality is rare, except in older patients with underlying conditions!....not necessarily "Good" news ,but "Better" news.

1.Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
2.CBC News

Resource: Dr. Patience Akahara

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