Fast Facts: Five things you need to know about Chikungunya
With the several cases of Chikunguna now confirmed in Texas, we checked in with infectious disease expert Dr. Scott Lillibridge, who provided us with details on the viral disease and preventative measures we can take to limit the spread.
Q: What is Chikungunya?
A: A viral disease that is transmitted to people by mosquitos. First diagnosed in the Caribbean, the disease has now been identified in patients on six of the seven continents (excluding Antarctica) To date, five cases have been confirmed in Texas, in Bexar, Gonzales, Harris, Travis and Williamson counties.
Q: How it is spread?
A: Through mosquito bites – specifically the Aedes species, which is known to bite mostly during the daytime.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: Most common symptoms are fever and severe, oftentimes debilitating joint pain, in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and rash. These symptoms usually appear within one week of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Q: Is there a treatment?
A: Prevention is the best policy. There is no known cure for this viral disease, except for therapy aimed at alleviating symptoms. However, most patients tend to feel better within a week of onset symptoms, though some long-term joint pain may persist in a small number of patients. While people with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of developing complications, the disease is rarely fatal. The vast majority of patients affected recover without long-term effects.
Q: What can you do to prevent it?
A: Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent this disease, so limiting exposure to mosquitos is still the best course of action.
- When outside, use mosquito repellent as directed on exposed skin.
- Use products with DEET or Picaridin as the active ingredients. Higher percentages of active ingredients provide longer protection.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes and mouth.
- Keep doors and windows closed or covered with screen; and Avoid areas with standing water, which can serve as a mosquito-breeding ground.
- Additionally, patients who have been diagnosed with the virus are encouraged to limit further exposure to mosquitoes for 10 days after the onset of symptoms to help prevent further spread of the disease.
Scott Lillibridge, M.D., is assistant dean and professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, deputy principal investigator and chief scientist for the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, and heads Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Healthy South Texas Initiative aimed at reducing preventative diseases and their consequences in that region. Dr. Lillibridge is a 30-year veteran in medical and public health preparedness who previously served as founding director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program and also worked as Special Assistant to the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He currently serves on the Institute of Medicine’s Health Threats Resilience Committee, offering expertise in refugee health and civil conflict, biodefense and bioterrorism, public health preparedness and response, and global health and development.