Chikungunya is an alphavirus that was first discovered in the 1950s.  The word "chikungunya" means "that which bends up," a reference to severe joint and muscle pain caused by the infection.


Chikungunya virus is much more common in other parts of the world including Africa and India.  However, the virus is continuing to spread because it is transmitted by mosquitoes that themselves are widespread.


Chikungunya is usually spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also found in the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas.  However, mutations in the virus have been discovered in the Eastern Hemisphere that allow the virus to be transmitted via the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which is more widespread throughout the continental United States.


So far, the Caribbean strain of Chikungunya virus do not harbor the mutation which would otherwise allow transmission through Aedes albopictus.  Nevertheless, the virus has been found in mosquitoes in Texas and also in non-travelers in Florida so the potential exists for more widespread infections.


Most American patients who have been infected with the virus within the last year had recently traveled to the Caribbean.


Within a few days after infection, patients typically experience high fever, skin rash, pain in the joints and muscles. Some patients experience arthritis due to inflammation in the joints, manifested as swelling, pain, and redness of the joints. About 20% of patients infected with Chikungunya go on to develop a chronic arthritis that can last from months to 2 years.  Scientists do not know why some patients have persistent symptoms.  Approximately 10% of patients infected with Chikungunya develop no symptoms at all.


Chikungunya is generally not a life-threatening condition and resolves within 1 or 2 weeks in most patients.  However, very young or elderly patients or patients with immunodeficiencies may be more susceptible to severe infections.


Knowledge of chikungunya virus infections in human patients is limited. Research is needed to better understand who is susceptible, the clinical course of arthritis, and effective treatments.

About Chikungunya Virus

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