For the summertime, I’m well aware and well versed in infections to prepare myself
for: summer “colds”, tick-borne illnesses, and even sexually transmitted diseases.
However, when a patient of mine returned from vacation in the Carribean with
suspected Chikungunya disease, I had to do some research.
You may have heard by now about this new mosquito-borne illness by the weird
name but may not know much about it. It apparently is making its way from places
in Africa, Europe, and India, and is now spreading to the Carribean islands of the US.
It was first found on the islands late last year (2013).
It is only transmitted by mosquito bites, and the most common symptoms include:
As one can see, diagnosing Chikungunya can be challenging as these symptoms are
similar to just about every other viral illness out there. The history is likely the most
helpful in diagnosis. Along with this, there is no vaccine or medication to treat it.
Like most viral illnesses, rest and fluids is the treatment. I did find that clinical
history is most important, including a patient’s recent travel or outdoor activities
within 3-7 days of symptoms beginning. There isn’t a specific lab to check for
this infection, however, other labs, such as a blood cell count, kidney levels, liver
enzymes, tick related antibodies, and urine can be used to rule out other types of
For this and most other travel related infections, prevention is key. It is
recommended that travelers and outdoorsmen use insect repellent, wear long
sleeves, sleep with mosquito nets when camping, and prevention of more mosquito
bites during the first week of infection to prevent more spread to others. Also, if one
has standing water nearby, like with the use of water reservoirs outside of homes or
standing water in home pools or in children’s toys, to eliminate them.
Treatment is nonspecific, meaning there’s no particular antiviral for this. However,
supportive care, such as anti-inflammatories (ie. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.), steroids,
rest and fluids can help relieve symptoms.
Since I began writing this article last week, the infection has gotten closer and closer
to us. Initially, data on the CDC (Centers for Disease and Infection Control) reported
it had not yet reached the continental US. Since last week, there’s been a suspected
case in South Carolina. Be careful and proactive.
Be Healthy and Blessed,