The Chikungunya Virus: Everything you need to know

Chikungunya, a new mosquito born virus has been making headlines lately causing many to be concerned.  It may be difficult to wade through the media buzz and hype to get useful information on how to protect your family. 

• What is Chikungunya?

It is  a mosquito-borne virus that causes extreme joint pain, in addition to fever and headache. It is similar to Dengue fever, which is a little more widely known. While most cases of Chikungunya in the U.S. are contracted abroad, there are an increasing number of cases in the US.

About  27 states from Massachusetts to Texas have been reported, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida has the majority of the 129 reported cases in U.S. states and territories, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are joint swelling, muscle pain and fever. Other symptoms include headache and rash.  
Although uncomfortable, these symptoms are rarely serious and only last about 3-5 days.

In some extreme cases joint pain and discomfort can linger for weeks or months after the virus goes away.

• Is there a cure?

There is no cure for Chikungunya, however doctors say that getting plenty of rest and fluids is important.  Taking over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Ibuprofen can help reduce discomfort caused by fever and swelling. 

• Is it dangerous?

Chikungunya is rarely dangerous or fatal, according to the CDC. Although the very old, very young and those with compromised immune systems have a greater risk for complications.

• How can I prevent Chikungunya?

Statistically, if you have no plans of leaving the United States, you have a very slim chance of contracting the virus, but because mosquitoes can carry any number of harmful pathogens, it is important to keep yourself protected.  Mosquito repellents and long sleeves should be used whenever you are going to be around areas with high mosquito populations.