Mosquito-Borne Illness: Chikungunya

Chikungunya is caused by the chikungunya virus, which can be spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. This disease cannot be passed from person-to-person, but there are no specific treatments available to cure infection at this time. Symptoms of chikungunya can be debilitating are often similar to the flu, so it’s important to visit your doctor for testing if symptoms arise.

The Cause of Chikungunya Virus Infections

The chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can be spread by Aedes mosquitoes. Outbreaks mainly occur in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and in the Caribbean. An infection of chikungunya may occur anywhere Aedes mosquitoes are found. For example, Aedes albopictus, also knows as the Asian Tiger mosquito, can be found in more than 25 states in the United States.

Signs and Symptoms of Chikungunya Infection

Not everyone infected by chikungunya will have symptoms. Most people will show symptoms three to seven days after getting bit by an infected mosquito. The primary symptoms of a chikungunya virus infection include fever and joint pain, although a number of patients report headaches, stiffness, muscle pain and rashes. While the symptoms can be very severe, chikunguna is rarely fatal. Most people feel better after a week, although some people experience joint pain for several months after they have been infected.

Aedes Mosquitoes

Aedes (Stegomyia) mosquitoes carry and transmit chikungunya. In Hawaii, the Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito or Forest Day Mosquito) are prevalent. Other Aedes mosquitoes can transmit chikungunya, but are not found in Hawaii. These mosquitoes are most active in the early morning after sunrise and the late afternoon before sunset.

Treatment for Chikungunya Infection

Just like the Zika and dengue viruses carried by mosquitoes, there is no specific treatment available for chikungunya infections. This tends to be the less severe infection of the three, but can be very severe in some cases. Physicians will recommend getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and taking pain medications to reduce symptoms. If you have recently traveled to an area that is experiencing a chikungunya outbreak, it’s important to let your healthcare providers know about your recent travel history. If you’ve been infected, make sure to see your doctor for testing and get plenty of rest. If you feel worse, you may need to go to the hospital for supportive care.

Take Precautions When You Travel

Whether you are from out-of-state taking a family trip to Hawaii, or you are a Hawaii resident traveling abroad, it is important to take precautions when you travel to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Make sure that you wear mosquito repellent that contains DEET, and wear protective clothing in areas that have high concentrations of mosquitoes.

For more information about chikungunya, visit the Disease Outbreak and Control Division’s section of the Hawaii Department of Health’s website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/chikungunya/