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Chikungunya Fever: Myths and Facts

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes severe joint pain, fever and headache but is usually not fatal besides certain rare cases. Humans contract the virus when they are bitten by a mosquito which transmits the virus; these mosquitoes are known as Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus. The general symptoms of chikungunya fever include chills, nausea, vomiting, high fever, extreme joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain, and severe headache, as well as rashes on the skin. Some people also tend to experience mouth ulcers and conjunctivitis. Symptoms are usually self-limiting and stay for 2-3 days; however, the virus stays in the human body for at least 5-7 days. Any mosquito feeding on the infected person during this period will in return become infected. The fever is also sometimes confused with dengue fever. While the fever is widespread and there is a lot of hue and cry over the fever and its impact, even then there is a lack of proper knowledge about it and a lot of assumptions cloud the fever theory. Hence, it is important to know the myths and facts about the chikungunya fever so that you know what you are dealing with.

Some myths about chikungunya fever are:

  • Chikungunya fever is fatal: The chikungunya fever is usually not fatal although the effects of the fever could last for years. The virus may result in extreme joint pain which can linger on for more than a year; however, in most cases, the virus is very painful but not deadly. The symptoms are severe and could be long-lasting and debilitating.
  • Chikungunya is contagious and transfers from human to human: The biggest myth about the chikungunya fever is that people perceive it to be transferable from one person to another, whereas the fever cannot be transmitted from one human to another. Only one particular species of mosquito – Aedes species namely Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus – transmits the virus through its bite. That said, very rare cases of blood transfusion can sometimes infect another human with the chikungunya fever. However, in some cases, it can be passed on from the mother to the newborn. 
  • The Aedes mosquito breeds outside the house in the dirty pool of water: One myth that really needs to break is that the mosquito species responsible for spreading the chikungunya virus – Aedes mosquito – breeds in a dirty pool of water and in open areas. However, the mosquito can breed anywhere inside or outside the house wherever there is a collection of stagnant, clean water.
  • The chikungunya mosquitoes bite during the night: Completely opposite of the widely believed myth – the chikungunya mosquito actively bites during the broad daylight, however, early morning and afternoon are peak timings of the mosquito activity.

Aside from these myths, it is critical to gain further knowledge about chikungunya fever. Some of the facts that are important to know in this regard are:

  • The chikungunya fever symptoms appear after three to seven days post the bite of the mosquito carrying the virus. Some of the common and early-stage symptoms include headache, joint pain, fever, and muscle pain. These symptoms make it easier to detect the problem early on stage.
  • The chikungunya virus stays in humans at least five to seven days. During this time, if a non-infected mosquito bites the chikungunya infected human, the mosquito also becomes infected and a carrier of the chikungunya virus. The bite of this infected mosquito too will result in chikungunya fever.
  • There is no vaccine or treatment process for chikungunya. Yes, that is right. There is no particular vaccine or medication that can cure the virus; however, the symptoms of the fever need to be treated. The best treatment for a chikungunya treatment is to take proper rest, drink a lot of fluids, and take pain-killers and fever medications. That said, it is important to consult your doctor before taking any medicines.
  • Most of the patients affected by the chikungunya virus recover completely. In most cases, the virus is offset completely from the infected human; however, in some cases, the symptoms such as acute joint pain may remain for a very long period of time. Chikungunya fever usually does not kill.
  • Chikungunya is different than dengue. The two may be confused based on their sources of the virus but these are two different viruses; however, they might share some mutual clinical signs yet their course of treatment and symptoms are different.
  • Most outbreaks happen in Asia and Africa. Major outbreaks of chikungunya fever occur in Asia and Africa. However, recent outbreaks have affected regions in the Americas and Europe.
  • The best way to protect from the virus is to stay away from the mosquitoes. Since there is no definite cure for chikungunya fever, it is best to avoid the mosquitoes that are responsible for spreading the virus. Take measures such as use mosquito repellents, empty and dry out all containers, wear clothes that provide full-body coverage, use mosquito nets, avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes, keep buckets upside down, stay away from storage of stagnant water, and many more. 

Further, if you experience any of the mentioned chikungunya fever symptoms, be sure to consult your doctor to confirm, as well as decide on the best possible method of treatment. More so, take necessary precautions and aim to avoid being infected by the virus in the first place. Be vigilant, be safe!

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