Sept. 2014- “Chickun-what?”

“Chikun-what?”

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:

-fever

-joint pain

-headache

-muscle pain

-joint swelling

-rash

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

infections.

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,

Dr. Swiner

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