Chikungunya: The New Dengue

When people think of mosquitos and the diseases carried by them, they think of dengue fever, malaria, or West Nile virus.  While all of these diseases can be severe, there is a new disease stemming from mosquito bites in the western hemisphere. According to the Center of Disease Control, chikungunya originated in Asia and Africa in 1952. It has slowly migrated towards the Americas with the first case of local transmission being reported in December 2013 in St. Martin. As of May 2015, 1.5 million cases had been reported to the Pan American Health Organization.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine prevent chikungunya. If someone contracts chikungunya, the only way to treat the disease is to focus on alleviating the symptoms. These symptoms include: fever, joint pain, rash, joint swelling, and headaches. The symptoms usually show within three to seven days of being infected and can be severely debilitating, but not deadly.

During my time in Honduras, I attended the Health Guardians workshop led by volunteers from Summit in Honduras. Chikungunya was high on the list of concerns expressed by the health guardians. The volunteers recommended that to avoid contracting chikungunya, the villagers should avoid areas with standing water and should use mosquito netting, if available, to protect themselves from mosquito bites within their homes.