What is Chikungunya?

Chikungunya is a viral infection caused by the Chikungunya virus, an Alphavirus and member of the Togaviridae family. Chikungunya fever is a notifiable disease in Ireland.

What are the symptoms of Chikungunya?

The time between being bitten by an infected mosquito and developing symptoms ranges from 1 to 12 days, with an average of 3 to 7 days.

The main symptoms are fever, joint pain, muscle pain and headache. Joint pains are a characteristic symptom. Bleeding from the nose or gums may happen, particularly in children.

While most cases recover without complications, some people may develop a more chronic phase with persistent joint pains. Recovery may take several weeks for these patients, coinciding with extreme tiredness. Younger people tend to recover in a matter of a one or two weeks while middle-aged and elderly tend to take 1-3 months for full recovery.

How is Chikungunya spread?

Chikungunya fever is transmitted to humans by biting Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti, A. albopictus and A. polynesiensis. These are tropical and subtropical mosquitoes found in the warmer parts of the world, especially Asia, the United States and the Mediterranean Basin. 

Where does Chikungunya occur?

Chikungunya is commonly found in East Africa, Southeast Asia and in the Indian sub-continent. In summer 2007, an outbreak was reported in the Emilia-Romagna region of North-East Italy, and this region is now considered an area where Chikungunya virus transmission takes place. The most recent cases of Chikungunya in Italy have occurred between June and October 2017 in Rome, the coastal region of Anzio and Latina.

What is the treatment for Chikungunya?

Treatment for Chikungunya involves pain relief and anti-fever medication. There is currently no vaccine against the Chikungunya virus. Travellers to affected areas are advised to prevent mosquito bites.

What should I do if I think I have Chikungunya?

People who have visited an area affected by Chikungunya, and who develop a high fever along with unexplained joint pain in the 12 days after their return are advised to seek medical attention.

Who is most at risk of Chikungunya?

Although the risk of serious disease is low, certain groups are at higher risk, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems (e.g. patients living with cancer or HIV/AIDS)
  • People suffering from severe chronic illness (e.g. heart, lung/ kidney disease, diabetes)

What do I need to do if I visit an area with Chikungunya?

Travellers to affected areas are advised to prevent mosquito bites. Pregnant women, immunosuppressed people and people suffering from a severe chronic illness should consult their physicians prior to the travel in order to assess their risk and get recommendations on personal preventive measures.

All travellers to countries where Chikungunya occurs should take the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use of anti-mosquito devices (insecticide-treated bed nets, spray, repellents)
  • Mosquito repellent based on a 30% DEET concentration is recommended. Pregnant women and children under the age of 12 years should consult a physician or pharmacist before use.
  • For newborn children under 3 months, repellents are not recommended and insecticide-treated bed nets and protective clothing should be used instead.
  • wear long sleeves and trousers

 Where can I go for further information?

Last updated: 18/10/2017