Chikungunya is a viral disease, which is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. There have been several outbreaks of the disease in India, including the ongoing one which started a few months back.
The main symptoms of the disease are fever, rash, and joint pain. There’s no cure, vaccination, or treatment of the disease. Instead, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.
A lot of people panic when they feel they have Chikungunya. On several Whatsapp groups, numerous fake messages go viral about medicines that can ‘cure’ the disease. In this post, we’ve tried to clear some of these misconceptions as well as share some pointers towards how you can detect, and prevent this disease.
SYMPTOMS OF CHIKUNGUNYA
Acute Phase of Chikungunya: The acute phase of a disease is a rapid, but short-lived period of time where you experience symptoms of the disease. There may be no symptoms for 2-12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Once symptoms appear, you’ll probably experience about 10 days of chikungunya symptoms before getting better. You may experience these symptoms during the acute phase:
Fever: The fever is Usually 102 to 105 °F (39 to 40.5 °C) and typically lasts from three days up to one week.
Arthritis (joint pain): You’ll usually notice arthritis in the small joints of the hand, wrist, ankles, and larger joints, like knees and shoulders, but not the hips. The pain is usually worse in the morning, but improves with mild exercise. Your joints may also look swollen or feel tender to the touch and you may have inflammation of tendons (tenosynovitis).
Rash: Approximately 40% to 50% of patients experience a rash. The most common type is a morbilliform eruption (maculopapular). These are red rashes with small bumps overlying them that appear three to five days after start of fever and subside within three to four days.
Chronic Phase of Chikungunya: This phase starts following the three months from the initial onset. It’s marked by the continuation of joint pain symptoms. Around 1 in 3 patients have reported to experience joint pains till 4-6 months after the initial set of the disease. Some patients may also have relapses of fever in this period.
If you suffer for fever for more than five days or above 103 °F, rash, overall body and joint pains, and low urine output, you should consult your doctor regarding the possibility of Chikungunya. Two tests are used most commonly for detecting Chikunguya:
ELISA (enzyme linked immunoassay) – This test looks for specific antibodies against the virus. These antibodies normally develop toward the end of the first week of illness and peak around three to weeks lasting up to two months. The price for ELISA test is approximately Rs.600.
RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) – This test uses virus-specific gene coding proteins to replicate specific genes of chikungunya. The price for RT-PCR test is approximately Rs.1,500.
There is no approved/specific treatment or cure for this virus nor a vaccine to prevent you from getting it. Treatment is purely symptom management. The World Health Organization recommends that you start home care treatment by resting. This will provide relief and time for your body to recover. Rest in an environment that is not damp or too hot, which could aggravate your joint symptoms. Other conservative treatment methods include:
Applying Cold Packs: Apply a cold pack to reduce pain and inflammation.Wrap a cold ice pack in a cloth/towel and apply to the inflamed areas. This will provide some pain relief.
Taking Pain Medication: If you’re experiencing fever and joint pain, take paracetamol or acetaminophen. Take up to two 500mg tablets with water up to four times a day. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Performing Simple Exercises: Perform mild exercises (like sitting on a chair and extending your legs, or standing and raising your legs) to strengthen your muscles around the joints which can reduce pain and stiffness. It is best to perform these in the morning.
Visit your pain physician: If pain continues 3-4 months after the initial onset and develops into the chronic phase, you should visit your pain physician.
At DELHI PAIN MANAGEMENT CENTRE, we provide ELISA and RT-PCR tests for diagnosing Chikungunya. Our pain physicians are well-trained to help you recover form your fever and joint pains.