More than 3000 cases of chikungunya virus have been reported in Delhi in the last few months. So if you are travelling to Delhi then you need to be careful. Here are some of things you need to know about chikungunya.
Chikungunya is not a new disease by any means. Scientists believe the disease originated around the year 1700, based on the evidence of the molecular genetics. The first verified record of chikungunya occurred on the Makonde Plateau of Africa in 1952. The name of the disease “chikungunya” comes from the Makonde language and it translates in English to “that which bends up.” The reason it got this name is because the people who were first affected by the disease developed arthritic symptoms and severe joint pains, which ultimately contorted their posture. These people did not have any medications or therapies to treat their symptoms so the damage from the disease was usually very severe.
Over the next 50 years after the Makonde Plateau case, there had been occasional outbreaks of chikungunya throughout Africa and across Southeast Asia and South Asia. But it wasn’t until the year 2013 when the virus was first discovered in the Caribbean Islands, which are part of the Americas. The virus likely got there from an infected traveler who went to the islands and then unknowingly transmitted it to someone else there, but not directly. Now, the chikungunya virus exists throughout the southern region of North America and all throughout South America. But the places where the chikungunya virus is transmitted the most is in nations found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. So if you are traveling to one of these continents then pay attention to the country you are traveling to and make sure it doesn’t have any known cases of chikungunya.
Chikungunya is not a disease that you just get out of thin air. It is actually a disease caused by a virus with the same name; the chikungunya virus. This virus is carried by certain mosquitoes and it is transmitted to people when they are bitten by them. The two mosquitos in particular that carry the virus are the Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. These mosquitos will bite people day or night so there is never a safe time to be outside if they’re around your area. If you do get bit by a mosquito, there are a few symptoms you will notice right away that will help you determine whether or not you have the chikungunya virus. Aside from a mosquito bite mark or rash on your skin, you’ll start to feel joint pain and feverish. You may even experience muscle pain, headaches, and joint swelling. These symptoms will typically occur about one week after getting bit. Most people don’t realize they have the disease until the symptoms remain with them for longer than a week.
The chikungunya virus is not contagious from person-to-person. This means if you come in contact with someone else who has the chikungunya virus then they cannot transmit it to you. Also, it is rare for a pregnant woman who is infected with the virus to transmit it to her newborn child. A woman can even breastfeed her child and it will not transmit the virus to them. The only way you can get the virus is from a mosquito that has bitten someone else with the virus. In other words, if a mosquito bites a person who is infected with the virus and then that same mosquito bites you, then you can be infected with the virus. Of course, you are never going to know which mosquitos contain the virus when they are buzzing around you. You also won’t be able to tell if they are Aedes albopictus or Aedes aegypti mosquitos unless you see it land on your body somewhere. That is why the only thing you can do is take precautions and be aware of where these mosquitos are known to roam in.
Precautions needed to prevent chikungunya in India
Sad thing is that mosquitoes are present in Delhi and throughout most of India in large numbers. Even sadder is that there are no vaccines or medicines to prevent someone from getting this virus; it is very easy for it to spread quickly. The worst part is there are no treatments or cures for the virus either. All you can do is take precautions by doing everything you can to avoid mosquito bites. This means wearing long sleeve shirts, pants, and using insect repellent whenever you go outside, especially in areas where the chikungunya virus is known to be. If you are indoors and you keep the windows open, make sure you have a screen to filter out the bugs from flying in through the open window. You should also close the doors and turn on the air conditioner to cool off the room. No mosquitos will want to go inside if it is a cool environment.
If you notice that you have the symptoms of the chikungunya virus, the first thing you need to do is not panic. Even though there are no medications available to treat the virus, there are home remedies and over-the-counter drugs you can take to fight the symptoms. First, you will need to make sure you drink plenty of fluids so that you don’t get dehydrated. You should also get plenty of rest and occasionally take acetaminophen to reduce any pain or fever symptoms. It is not recommended that you take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal. If the symptoms do not go away within a week after trying these remedies or if you are currently taking prescription medication to treat another health problem, then go see a doctor right away and let them advise you on what to do next. Also, if you know you have the chikungunya virus then take every precaution necessary to avoid getting bit by a mosquito again. After all, the more mosquitos that bite you the more mosquitos that will be carrying the disease and transmitting it to other people.
When the chikungunya virus has infected you with chikungunya, you basically have to wait it out. If you are feeling feverish symptoms, they’ll usually last for 4-7 days. What you’ll have to endure more are the joint pain symptoms. Joint pains caused by chikungunya can last for weeks or even months. In rare cases, they can last for years. It all depends on the person and how strong their immune system is. Long-term symptoms include chronic arthritis, advanced aging, and enhanced rheumatological disease. That is why elderly people are threatened by chikungunya the most. The majority of elderly people already have existing medical problems which have their own painful symptoms. These problems typically include heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. So if elderly people end up with chikungunya, then it will create more severe complications to these existing health problems. The statistic of people dying from chikungunya is about 1 out of every 1,000 cases. The majority of these deaths are elderly people because of the complications that the disease causes them.
What is the Chikungunya Virus? Watch the video to find out.
Overall, the chikungunya virus is not an immediate threat to human beings and most people can recover from the symptoms within a week. But this doesn’t mean it is going to be a pleasant week. You will have to endure joint pains, fevers, and other painful symptoms. Just purchase a bottle of insect repellent and always apply it to your skin whenever you think you’ll be outside for an extended period of time. This goes double for travelers who go to Africa or Asia.
Just because there has been a few cases of chikungunya does not mean you should avoid India or Delhi, all you need to do is to take a bit of precautions and you will be fine. For more information on staying healthy in India you can read my book: India Travel Health Guide: Health Advice and Tips for Travelers to India.