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Chikungunya and Zika

Chikungunya and Zika

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Chikungunya is most commonly seen in Africa and other tropical countries but spread to the Western Hemisphere in 2014, reaching Puerto Rico. In just a three-month period, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 10,000 cases throughout the island. Since then, the virus has spread to more than 45 countries and territories in the Americas with more than 1.7 million suspected cases. The connection between Zika and Chikungunya is the Aedes species of mosquito, which carries both viruses, as well as yellow fever and dengue fever. Scientists say that outbreaks in the same areas with Zika would indicate that efforts at mosquito control are falling short.

Painful disease. There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya, whose name comes from the Makonde language that is spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique in Africa. Literally, it means “it bends up.” The reference is to the pain associated with Chikungunya and the way in which patients are often bent over in pain. It is not uncommon to spend several weeks in bed.

Symptoms and treatment. The disease is similar to dengue fever, which also is transmitted by the same  mosquito. Symptoms usually begin to appear within 3 to 7 days of being bitten, according to scientists. They include fever, headache, joint ache, joint swelling and in some cases, a rash. The virus usually runs its course in about a week; however, a small percentage of patients will continue to have some joint pain for several months. The elderly, newborns, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are most likely to have the most serious cases of chikungunya. Once a person has gotten chikungunya, they are generally protected from any infections in the future.

Treatment. There is no special treatment for chikungunya other that managing the symptoms of the disease as much as possible. That means drinking fluids to avoid dehydration, getting plenty of sleep, and taking medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen or paracetamol for the fever and pain.

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