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Chikungunya can circulate with the help of monkeys, birds and cattle, but dengue spreads only through mosquitoes Chikungunya was first reported in 1952, during an outbreak in southern Tanzania. It has now been identified in 60 countries including those in Asia, Africa, Europe, America and others. Listed in the World Health Organization’s R&D Blueprint (2016), the recently established Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has it on their agenda to develop a vaccine for Chikungunya, along with other diseases such as MERS, Ebola and others.
Abrupt onset of fever and severe joint pain. There can be other symptoms such as muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash – that is, small red spots all over the body. The joint pain can be severe and sometimes prolonged. The disease does not induce immunity by itself and can recur. The word Chikungunya, derived from the Kimakonde language which is spoken by the indigenous people of southern Tanzania, itself means that which is contorted. It refers to the contorted position taken by people when they are affected by joint pain.
How is it transmitted? It is transferred from human to human by mosquitoes. The females of Aedes Aegyptii and Aedes albopictus are the main species of mosquito that spread the disease. These mosquitoes bite through the day. Chikungunya is an infection in humans caused by the chikungunya virus. The chikungunya virus is present in Africa, southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Indian Ocean islands, where a number of outbreaks have occurred.
Humans and other primates are the natural hosts for the chikungunya virus. The virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected female Aedes species mosquito – Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus. These are the same tropical and sub-tropical mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. They breed in or near human habitations and prefer to feed on humans during the daytime in shady areas, but may also bite early in the night. In Australia, Aedes aegypti currently is found in north Queensland while Aedes albopictus is found in a few locations in the Torres Strait. Infections reported in Australia are from people who have travelled overseas to regions where the chikungunya virus is present. To date chikungunya virus infection has not been transmitted by mosquitoes in Australia. However, since the mosquitoes capable of transmitting the infection are found in northern Australia there is the potential for this to occur.
Chikungunya infection is characterised by sudden onset of: high fever severe joint pain mainly in the arms and legs headache muscle pain ack pain rash (about 50% of affected people). Most people start to feel better after 7 to 10 days although some people will develop longer term joint pain.