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Chikungunya is a virus transmitted to people by mosquitoes, specifically Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and Zika viruses. The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection include fever and joint pain in addition to headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Chikungunya virus was first detected in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean in 2013. In Michigan, chikungunya cases have been recorded by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. To minimize the chance of infection, travelers should take measures to prevent mosquito bites.
Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people from the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. Chikungunya virus is spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes which are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and Zika viruses. These mosquitoes bite during the day and also at night.
Prior to 2013, chikungunya virus outbreaks were identified in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In 2013, the first local transmission of chikungunya virus in the Americas was identified in the Caribbean countries and territories. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to people. Since 2013, local transmission has been detected in 45 countries or territories throughout the Americas. Beginning in 2014, local transmission was identified in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Michigan, chikungunya cases have been travel associated and were reported among Michigan residents returning from affected areas.
What are the signs and symptoms of chikungunya virus infection?
The majority of individuals that are infected with chikungunya virus will develop some symptoms. Typically symptoms will begin 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms include fever and joint pain. However, other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Infection does not often result in death yet, symptoms may be severe and disabling. The majority of infected individuals feel better within a week. Joint pain may persist for months though.
Individuals at risk for more severe disease include newborns, adults >65 years of age, and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. Once infected, individuals are likely protected from future infections.
How is chikungunya virus diagnosed?
See your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms after visiting areas where chikungunya is found. If you have traveled, be sure to tell your healthcare provider when and where you have traveled. Your healthcare provider may order blood tests in order to look for chikungunya or other similar viruses such as dengue and Zika.
How is chikungunya virus treated?
There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus. Symptoms can be treated by rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, taking medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain. However, do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue virus infection can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding. If you are taking medicine for other reasons, consult with your medical provider before taking additional medication.
During the first week of infection, chikungunya virus can be found in the blood and can be passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. Then the infected mosquito can spread the virus to other individuals. Therefore, if you have chikungunya, it is important to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of your illness.
How can chikungunya be prevented?
No vaccine exists to prevent chikungunya virus infection or disease.
If you are planning a trip, click here to see if the country you plan to visit has any travel health notices.
The best way to prevent chikungunya infection is to avoid mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread chikungunya virus bite during the day and at night.
How to Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites:
- Use air conditioning or window/door screen to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes near your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents:
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol provide long-lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.
If you have chikungunya:
- During the first week of infection, chikungunya virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people.
- To prevent further spread of the virus, it is important for people to avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.