Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Ten facts about chik-V

Published:Wednesday | September 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The chikungunya virus (chick-V) is an emerging virus that began in Africa, but has now spread to several territories across the world, including North America, South America and the Caribbean, including here in Jamaica.

According to data from Jamaica's Ministry of Health, up to the week ending September 13, there were 524 notifications of which 251 were classified as suspected chikungunya cases. As of September 16, 31 cases were laboratory confirmed. Twenty-six were discarded due to negative laboratory results and 194 cases remain suspected.

Parishes reported by the ministry to be affected so far are Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, St Thomas, St Ann, St Mary and Portland.

Although the chikungunya virus is not life threatening in the majority of cases, it can cause severe pain lasting days and in some cases, months to over a year.

Here are some facts about this disease derived from the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.

1 Chick-V is a virus that is known to cause fever and severe joint pain and/or joint swelling, among other symptoms. It was first described in Tanzania, East Africa, in 1952. Its name means 'that which bends up' or 'stooped walk' because of the incapacitating joint pain caused by the disease.

2 It is transmitted from human to human by bites of infected mosquitoes; therefore, measures to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, to kill mosquitoes and to prevent mosquito bites are important in disease prevention.

3 Most infected persons present with symptoms of the disease after an incubation period of three to seven days, though this period can range from one to 12 days. Some individuals infected with chik-V (3 to 28 per cent) show no symptoms of the virus.

4 In acute (short term) chik-V infection, there may be an abrupt onset of high fever (usually >102F / 39C) and severe joint pain and/or swelling. The fever usually lasts three to seven days. The hands, wrists and ankles are most commonly affected.

5 Skin signs include spots or spots and bumps resembling measles in about 50 per cent of patients. The rash mainly occurs on the trunk, arms, thighs and legs, but can affect the face, palms and soles. There maybe generalised skin redness, and blisters (fluid-filled bumps) maybe present in children.

6 Other signs include headache, back pain, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and conjunctivitis. Atypical clinical manifestations can occur, involving the nervous system, eye, heart, kidney and other organs. Infants, the elderly, pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease and blood-vessel disease can increase the risk of a more severe course of chik-V.

7 After the acute phase, some patients may relapse with joint pain and joint swelling two to three months after. Depression, weakness, tiredness and other symptoms may also occur at this time. Less commonly, some patients may experience chronic chik-V where the joint pain can last over a year.

8 Laboratory tests may help diagnose and assess chik-V and exclude other diseases that may mimic it. There is no specific anti-viral treatment for chik-V infection. Treatment is targeted to the symptoms. Treatment includes fluids, rest, painkillers and anti-fever medication. Most persons recover without needing hospital admission.

9 Depending on clinical manifestations, patients may be sent home or referred to hospital. Patients with chronic form of the disease may need intensive pain management, physiotherapy, and psychological support.

10 Health-care providers should report all suspected and confirmed cases of chik-V to their parish health department.

Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: