Chikungunya (chee-koon-gun-ya) and also spelled as “Chicken guinea”, “Chicken gunaya,” and “Chickengunya”, comes from the African Swahili language, where it means “to bend up”. When severely affected with joint pain a person bends up like a ninety year old, hunched over in pain. Most symptoms are similar to Dengue Fever.
Chikungunya is a mosquito born virus carried by the Aedes mosquito here in Thailand as well as many other countries including England, Sri Lanka, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, India, and lets just say – this half of the world.
The mosquitoes that can infect you are the zebra-like mosquitoes with black and white stripes.
I’m not an expert on Chikungunya – but, since I now have it, I’ve read up a lot on the issue and I’ll share what I know from reading and researching the disease here.
How Does a Person get Chikungunya?
It gets you. The Aedes mosquito, and usually the Aedes aegypti mosquito, biting during the daytime, spreads this virus after biting an infected person and then biting another person – infecting that person too. So, blood to blood transmission between two people. You can not catch it through the air.
How Did Chikungunya Start?
How does any virus start? Here’s where we noticed it popped up in recent times…
Chikungunya is of the genus Alphavirus belonging to the Togaviridae family. It is an Arbovirus. The main virus incubation organisms are monkeys, then humans. In recent times it was found first in Tanazania in the early 1950’s. From Africa it spread to many countries in Asia. It’s here in Thailand.
How Common is Chikungunya in Thailand?
Really common in 2009-2010. In the south there has been a large number of people infected, they talk about on local TV. My wife knows some. Some friends of mine know some. I know 4 people besides myself that have it. On May 12, 2009 the PhuketGazette.com had an article about 20,000 people in Thailand’s south contracting Chikungunya – mostly rubber tappers in the southernmost provinces. They mention just 4 cases in Phuket.
Here in Krabi it is well known to be around every year in the hundreds of cases at minimum, and usually thousands of cases.
How Do I Protect Myself from Chikungunya?
- Mosquito lotion with a high DEET number (over 50).
- Stay away from mosquitos during the 6:30 to 7:30 am and 5:30 to 7 pm hours when the Alphades mosquito is the most ravenous.
- Mosquito nets
- Light mosquito coils that have citronella – a natural mosquito repellant
How Do I Know I Have it? What Are Chikungunya Symptoms?
The symptoms vary a lot in severity. Symptoms start 1-12 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. For me I had little fever and chills and I thought I must have eaten some bad food. Then headache for a few days – five or six days actually. I was, and am still – abnormally warm. Not that I have a fever, but I am always feeling hot. It’s a strange symptom to have, because I’m never really comfortable, always sweating. Sort of like when I first arrived in Thailand.
- fever – I had slight fever for almost a week
- chills – I had at night
- headache – I had days of headaches
- joint pain – this came after about 10 days, maybe 2 weeks. It’s been horrible some days and milder others. If I exercise hard, the next day I fee like I had a car accident. If I exercise mildly – walking fast or something – it feels better the next day than if I didn’t exercise.
- nausea – I had none.
- vomiting – I had none.
- rash – I always have a rash somewhere in Thailand, so not sure which one this is.
Chikungunya is diagnosed by examining the blood for the virus. Specifically the blood is examined for:
- Virus specific IgM antibodies detection by ELISA
- Haemagglutination Inhibition (HI) antibody detection.
- Isolation of the virus and RT- PCR Treatment of Chikun Gunya
Nearly everyone recovers from Chikungunya – but elderly and infants may have a rough time of it. It is sometimes fatal. It sometimes leads to complications like enchephalitis.
Recovery from Chikungunya is related to age. Children recover fastest, in 5-15 days. Adults of middle-age recover in 1-3 months. Elderly usually take longer to recover. The intensity and duration of the symptoms are less in younger children and pregnant women. No known effects on gestation.
Weeks, months, and even over a year of joint pain is possible. At the moment I have had about 5 weeks of joint pain. It isn’t debilitating – I can still force myself to go exercise, but it isn’t fun – in the morning especially. Hope it doesn’t last a year!
What is the Treatment for Chikungunya? Is there a Vaccination?
None, and no.
You can treat the symptoms if you like – with Paracetamol. Thais call it “PaRA” or “Paracet”, but there is no real treatment of the virus itself. Light exercise might loosen up stiff muscles and joints – leading to less pain.
Not recommended: Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDs are recommended for arthritic pain and fever – says the Chikungunya fact sheet mentioned at Wikipedia – but not referenced.
Infected persons should be kept from mosquitos as much as possible so they don’t infect others through mosquito bites.
Can Chikungunya Kill a Person?
Yes, but not usually. An infected person might die from complications of Chikungunra – for instance, meningitis or encephalitis.
A positive – once you are infected with Chikungunya you have immunity from it in the future.