5 Must-Know Facts About Chikungunya

DECEMBER 14, 2015
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
Chikungunya was rarely seen in US travelers before 2006, but the virus has grown more prevalent. Now, almost all states have seen at least one case of the disease in US travelers this year.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, though there have also been reports of laboratory workers and health care professionals who became infected after handling the blood of an infected patient.

Reports of infection tend to come from US travelers who visited Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since there is no antiviral therapy specifically for chikungunya viral disease, patients diagnosed with it may be treated with corticosteroids or physiotherapy for joint pain. They may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain and fever.

Health care professionals should stress plenty of fluids and rest for infected patients.

Here are 5 must-know facts pharmacists should know about chikungunya:

1. Look out for symptoms such as fever and polyarthralgia among travelers.

Patients will typically present symptoms for 3 to 7 days, though the full range can be from 1 to 12 days, according to the CDC.

Acute onset of fever typically around 102 degrees is common, as well as joint pain.

(The word chikungunya is derived from the Makonde language and literally translated as “that which bends up,” referring to the debilitating joint pain that infected patients experience, according to an article published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology.)

Other potential symptoms include headache, myalgia, arthritis, conjunctivitis, nausea, vomiting, and maculopapular rash.

Lab testing may also identify lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, elevated creatinine, and elevated hepatic transaminases.

Acute symptoms typically clear within 7 to 10 days.

Those with hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as patients over 65, are more at risk for severe disease, according to the CDC.

The virus is rarely fatal, but older patients face a greater mortality risk.