Tue | May 26, 2020

The chikungunya virus and your oral health

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM

"The chicken gunmen get mi ... ." That is the talk on everyone's tongue for the past few months.

Chikungunya fever is an acute self-limiting viral disease caused by being bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

It is suggested that chik-V, as it is commonly called, has reportedly already reached epidemic proportions in Jamaica within the last few months, as seen in the vast number of clinical cases in both primary- and secondary-care health facilities, and also in private practice. Chik-V affects both males and females equally and is seen in all age groups.

Many persons have already experienced and are aware of the deleterious symptoms associated with the disease: mainly fever, joint pains and rashes. There are, however, some oral signs and symptoms, which studies have shown and which have also been observed in patients with chik-V. These include:

1) Dysguesia or loss of taste

2) Oral apthous ulcers, more commonly referred to as sores in the mouth

3) Crusted lesions of the lips and angles of the mouth

4) Pain and inflammation of the temporomandibular joints

5) Redness and swelling of the gums, in particular around the margins of the teeth

6) Oral candidiasis (thrush)

7) Erosions of the lining of the oral mucosa

8) Inflammation of the lymph nodes in particular the submandibular lymph nodes.

It is presumed that both the high fever associated with the disease and the pain and discomfort, which make proper oral practices last on the list of priorities, both precipitate the oral manifestations, which last about three to five days.

Palliative care is taken at this time in treating the associated symptoms. The use of Bongela or oral gels can be applied to the oral ulcers in conjunction with warm saltwater rinses. Proper oral hygiene that includes daily flossing and brushing at least twice daily after meals is also to be observed. Acetaminophen can be taken to reduce the associated fever and joint pains.

Prevention of Chikungunya is, however, always best and is mainly related to control of the vector-carrying agent.

Dr Lissa A. Pinkney is a practising dentist, registered with the Jamaica Dental Council, and is a member of the Jamaica Dental Association.