Monsoon Brings Risk of Chikungunya


Those tiny little puddles left behind by the rains could be a harbinger of diseases. It is not for nothing that usually during the monsoons a Chikungunya outbreak is common in many parts of the country. Those little puddles serve the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and with them comes the onslaught of vector-borne diseases like Chikungunya.

Chikungunya is an infection caused by the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). It happens when an infected mosquito bites a human being, such that the skin breaks open and the virus gets exposed into the blood stream. Once the virus is introduced into the blood stream it generally has an incubation period of two to 12 days, and after that, the symptoms of Chikungunya start showing.

This virus is spread by two types of mosquitoes, namely Aedesaegypti and Aedesalbopictus. These are usually active during the day, but night bites are not uncommon either. So an all-day mosquito repellant mechanism should be the ideal preventive measure.

This infection is usually characterized by a sudden onset of high fever and tremendous pain in the joints, like knees, ankles, wrists or shoulders. In many cases, an outbreak of rashes all over the body or the face is also an accompanying symptom. These are usually the dominant symptoms of Chikungunya, but in some cases, severe headache, exhaustion, conjunctivitis and digestive disorders including nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea have also been reported.

The level of virus in the blood directly correlates to the intensity of the symptoms. Usually, the first symptom of the onset of the disease is sudden high fever ranging around 102 degrees Fahrenheit. It might go up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more depending on the intensity of the virus. After that, joint pain occurs and it is so severe that in most cases the pain lasts even after the disease is cured and the virus is no longer present in the bloodstream. It starts as a debilitating joint pain, which often limits the mobility in the affected part, and in many cases, it takes months for the pain to heal and in some cases, it might even take a year for the joint pain to heal completely.

In a majority of the cases, joint pain is reported. In fact, joint pain is one of the distinguishing factors of Chikungunya and this symptom is one way of identifying it and differentiating it from other vector-borne diseases. Typically the affected joints are located in both arms and legs and are affected symmetrically. However, joints are more likely to be affected if they have been previously damaged due to arthritis. Usually, pain occurs in the peripheral joints such as the wrists, ankles, but can be seen in any other joint as well like knees, shoulders and the like. Pain might also occur in the muscles and ligaments due to this.

When there is a Chikungunya outbreak in a particular region, then the human body acts as the reservoir of the virus. Firstly an infected mosquito bites a human and introduces the virus into the blood stream. Once that is done, then that affected individual becomes a reservoir of that virus. Then if the affected person is again bitten by a mosquito, which then bites another person, then the virus gets transmitted from the affected person to another through the mosquito.

So the best preventive mechanism in case of Chikungunya is avoiding the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Any place where there is stagnant water serves as the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. That explains why the monsoons and chikungunya outbreaks go hand in hand. When there are mosquitoes, then mosquito bites are ought to be there. With these bites, the virus first gets transmitted to the human body and then it spreads from human to human through these mosquito bites. So covering any vessel that is used to store water at home should be the primary hygiene principle at home. Then using an all-day mosquito repellant would be the next level of protective measure and to top it using mosquito nets at night should be a safe option. One should also try to wear full- sleeve clothes to avoid exposure of bare skin, as that reduces the chances of mosquito bites.

So far there are no vaccines for this disease, neither are there any particular medicines for its treatment. Chikungunya is usually treated symptomatically depending on the intensity of the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol are used for the treatment of Chikungunya and doctors usually identify cases based upon the medical history.

The risk of death in Chikungunya is 1 in 1,000 and usually, it gets severe if the affected person is very old or very young, because in them the immune system is not as strong. Or in some cases, those with other co-morbid conditions run the risk of the disease getting complicated. In most cases, it usually gets better with symptomatic treatment within a week or 10 days, except for the lingering joint pain, which takes some time to heal completely.

So this monsoon, avoid the stagnant water and puddles. And by eliminating the breeding ground for mosquitoes at least the basic step to keeping this vector-borne disease at bay is taken.

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