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Chikungunya is an infection caused by the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Symptoms include fever and joint pains. These typically occur two to twelve days after exposure.
Chikungunya is an infection caused by the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Symptoms include fever and joint pains. These typically occur two to twelve days after exposure. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and a rash. Symptoms usually improve within a week; however, occasionally the joint pain may last for months or years. The risk of death is around 1 in 1,000. The very young, old, and those with other health problems are at risk of more severe disease.
The virus is spread between people by two types of mosquitoes: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. They mainly bite during the day. The virus may circulate within a number of animals including birds and rodents. Diagnosis is by either testing the blood for the virus's RNA or antibodies to the virus. The symptoms can be mistaken for those of dengue fever and Zika fever. It is believed most people become immune after a single infection.
The best means of prevention is overall mosquito control and the avoidance of bites in areas where the disease is common. This may be partly achieved by decreasing mosquitoes' access to water and with the use of insect repellent and mosquito nets. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment as of 2016. Recommendations include rest, fluids, and medications to help with fever and joint pain.
While the disease typically occurs in Africa and Asia, outbreaks have been reported in Europe and the Americas since the 2000s. In 2014 more than a million suspected cases occurred. In 2014 it was occurring in Florida in the continental United States but as of 2016 there were no further locally acquired cases. The disease was first identified in 1952 in Tanzania. The term is from the Kimakonde language and means "to become contorted".
Signs and symptoms
The incubation period ranges from one to twelve days, and is most typically three to seven. 72% to 97% of those infected will develop symptoms. Characteristic symptoms include sudden onset, combining high fever, joint pain, and rash. Other symptoms may occur, including headache, fatigue, digestive complaints, and conjunctivitis. Information gained during recent epidemics suggests that chikungunya fever may result in a chronic phase as well as the phase of acute illness.
Within the acute phase, two stages have been identified: a viral stage during the first five to seven days, during which viremia occurs, followed by a convalescent stage lasting approximately ten days, during which symptoms improve and the virus cannot be detected in the blood. Typically, the disease begins with a sudden high fever that lasts from a few days to a week, and sometimes up to ten days. The fever is usually above 39 °C (102 °F) and sometimes reaching 40 °C (104 °F) and may be biphasic — lasting several days, breaking, and then returning. Fever occurs with the onset of viremia, and the level of virus in the blood correlates with the intensity of symptoms in the acute phase. When IgM, an antibody that is a response to the initial exposure to an antigen, appears in the blood, viremia begins to diminish. However, headache, insomnia and an extreme degree of exhaustion remain, usually about five to seven days.
Following the fever, strong joint pain or stiffness occurs; it usually lasts weeks or months, but may last for years. The joint pain can be debilitating, often resulting in near immobility of the affected joints. Joint pain is reported in 87–98% of cases, and nearly always occurs in more than one joint, though joint swelling is uncommon. Typically the affected joints are located in both arms and legs, and are affected symmetrically. Joints are more likely to be affected if they have previously been damaged by disorders such as arthritis. Pain most commonly occurs in peripheral joints, such as the wrists, ankles, and joints of the hands and feet as well as some of the larger joints, typically the shoulders, elbows and knees. Pain may also occur in the muscles or ligaments.
Rash occurs in 40–50% of cases, generally as a maculopapular rash occurring two to five days after onset of symptoms. Digestive symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, may also occur. In more than half of cases, normal activity is limited by significant fatigue and pain. Infrequently, inflammation of the eyes may occur in the form of iridocyclitis, or uveitis, and retinal lesions may occur.
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), is a member of the genus Alphavirus, and family Togaviridae. It was first isolated in 1953 in Tanzania and is an RNA virus with a positive-sense single-stranded genome of about 11.6kb. It is a member of the Semliki Forest virus complex and is closely related to Ross River virus, O'nyong'nyong virus, and Semliki Forest virus. Because it is transmitted by arthropods, namely mosquitoes, it can also be referred to as an arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus). In the United States, it is classified as a category B priority pathogen, and work requires biosafety level III precautions
Chikungunya is generally transmitted from mosquitoes to humans. Less common modes of transmission include vertical transmission, which is transmission from mother to child during pregnancy or at birth. Transmission via infected blood products and through organ donation is also theoretically possible during times of outbreak, though no cases have yet been documented.
Chikungunya is related to mosquitoes, their environments, and human behavior. The adaptation of mosquitoes to the changing climate of North Africa around 5,000 years ago made them seek out environments where humans stored water. Human habitation and the mosquitoes’ environments were then very closely connected. During periods of epidemics humans are the reservoir of the virus. Because high amounts of virus are present in the blood in the beginning of acute infection, the virus can be spread from a viremic human to a mosquito, and back to a human. During other times, monkeys, birds and other vertebrates have served as reservoirs. Three genotypes of this virus have been described, each with a distinct genotype and antigenic character: West African, East/Central/South African, and Asian genotypes. The Asian lineage originated in 1952 and has subsequently split into two lineages – India (Indian Ocean Lineage) and South East Asian clades. This virus was first reported in the Americas in 2014. Phylogenetic investigations have shown that there are two strains in Brazil – the Asian and East/Central/South African types – and that the Asian strain arrived in the Caribbean (most likely from Oceania) in about March 2013.
Chikungunya virus is passed to humans when a bite from an infected mosquito breaks the skin and introduces the virus into the body. The pathogenesis of chikungunya infection in humans is still poorly understood, despite recent outbreaks. It appears that in vitro, Chikungunya virus is able to replicate in human epithelial and endothelial cells, primary fibroblasts, and monocyte-derived macrophages. Viral replication is highly cytopathic, but susceptible to type-I and -II interferon. In vivo, in studies using living cells, chikungunya virus appears to replicate in fibroblasts, skeletal muscle progenitor cells, and myofibers.
Chikungunya is diagnosed on the basis of clinical, epidemiological, and laboratory criteria. Clinically, acute onset of high fever and severe joint pain would lead to suspicion of chikungunya. Epidemiological criteria consist of whether the individual has traveled to or spent time in an area in which chikungunya is present within the last twelve days (i.e.) the potential incubation period). Laboratory criteria include a decreased lymphocyte count consistent with viremia. However a definitive laboratory diagnosis can be accomplished through viral isolation, RT-PCR, or serological diagnosis.
As of 2020, no approved vaccines are available. A phase-II vaccine trial used a live, attenuated virus, to develop viral resistance in 98% of those tested after 28 days and 85% still showed resistance after one year. However, 8% of people reported transient joint pain, and attenuation was found to be due to only two mutations in the E2 glycoprotein. Alternative vaccine strategies have been developed, and show efficacy in mouse models. In August 2014 researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the USA were testing an experimental vaccine which uses virus-like particles (VLPs) instead of attenuated virus. All the 25 people participated in this phase 1 trial developed strong immune responses. As of 2015, a phase 2 trial was planned, using 400 adults aged 18 to 60 and to take place at 6 locations in the Caribbean. Even with a vaccine, mosquito population control and bite prevention will be necessary to control chikungunya disease.
Historically, chikungunya has been present mostly in the developing world. The disease causes an estimated 3 million infections each year. Epidemics in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Islands, and in the Americas, continue to change the distribution of the disease. In Africa, chikungunya is spread by a sylvatic cycle in which the virus largely cycles between other non-human primates, small mammals, and mosquitos between human outbreaks. During outbreaks, due to the high concentration of virus in the blood of those in the acute phase of infection, the virus can circulate from humans to mosquitoes and back to humans. The transmission of the pathogen between humans and mosquitoes that exist in urban environments was established on multiple occasions from strains occurring on the eastern half of Africa in non-human primate hosts. This emergence and spread beyond Africa may have started as early as the 18th century. Currently, available data does not indicate whether the introduction of chikungunya into Asia occurred in the 19th century or more recently, but this epidemic Asian strain causes outbreaks in India and continues to circulate in Southeast Asia. In Africa, outbreaks were typically tied to heavy rainfall causing increased mosquito population. In recent outbreaks in urban centers, the virus has spread by circulating between humans and mosquitoes.
The word 'chikungunya' is believed to have been derived from a description in the Makonde language, meaning "that which bends up", of the contorted posture of people affected with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with this disease. The disease was first described by Marion Robinson and W.H.R. Lumsden in 1955, following an outbreak in 1952 on the Makonde Plateau, along the border between Mozambique and Tanganyika (the mainland part of modern-day Tanzania).
According to the initial 1955 report about the epidemiology of the disease, the term 'chikungunya' is derived from the Makonde root verb kungunyala, meaning to dry up or become contorted. In concurrent research, Robinson glossed the Makonde term more specifically as "that which bends up". Subsequent authors apparently overlooked the references to the Makonde language and assumed the term to have been derived from Swahili, the lingua franca of the region. The erroneous attribution to Swahili has been repeated in numerous print sources. Many erroneous spellings of the name of the disease are also in common use.
Since its discovery in Tanganyika, Africa, in 1952, Chikungunya virus outbreaks have occurred occasionally in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, but recent outbreaks have spread the disease over a wider range.
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