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What is chikungunya fever?
Chikungunya (say "chick-un-GOON-ya") fever is an illness caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitoes.
You're more likely to get this illness if you travel to parts of the world where it's more common. This includes parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans. More recently, it has also been found in the Caribbean and the Americas.
Travelers can spread this illness. They may go on a trip and get bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. Then they get sick and come home. And if they are bitten again, they can spread the virus to mosquitoes in their home areas.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms are fever and very painful joints. The joint pain is often in the hands and feet. Symptoms usually start within a week after the bite.
Some people also have a headache, muscle pain, swollen joints, or a rash.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any recent travel. He or she may order a blood test to make sure you don't have another problem.
How is chikungunya fever treated?
There is no treatment for this illness. Symptoms usually go away on their own after about a week.
Treating your symptoms may help you feel better.
- Take medicine to reduce the pain and fever. Over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), usually help.
- Get extra rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
If your pain is very bad, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medicine. A few people have joint pain that lasts for months or even years.
Antibiotics won't help, because this illness is caused by a virus, not bacteria.
How can you prevent it?
There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya fever. But you can do things to help protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially when you travel.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Use an insect repellent with DEET. Experts suggest that repellent with 10% to 30% DEET is safe to use with children older than 2 months. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Spray clothing with DEET. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. (Remember that DEET can damage plastic, such as watch crystals, eyeglass frames, and some synthetic fabrics.)
- Sleep under mosquito netting.
- Use flying-insect spray indoors around sleeping areas.
The most current information about chikungunya fever is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If you are planning international travel, you can learn about the risk of chikungunya in the area you're traveling to by contacting:
- The CDC at its toll-free phone number (1-800-232-4636) or website (www.cdc.gov/chikungunya).
- Your doctor or local health department.
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
W. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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