Meet Chikungunya: One Twisted Virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of February 24, 2014

CHIKV distribution according to the Centers for Disease Control, as of February 24, 2014.

Perform an internet search for “Chikungunya” and you’ll find numerous recent articles. Here’s a summary of the situation and why you should care.

Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes to children and adults that causes symptoms like fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, joint and muscle pain. The name of the virus translates to “that which bends up,” which describes a person’s bent and contorted appearance caused by debilitating joint pain. Chikungunya rarely causes death, but a large percentage of people who are exposed to the virus experience symptoms (Between 53-93%, Described here and here.), unlike West Nile virus, which generally causes symptoms in a small percentage of infected people. There are no antiviral medications or vaccines available.

Chikungunya was first discovered in Tanzania in the 1950s and has spread to 50+ countries. The virus has caused serious epidemics, infecting a third of the population on La Reunion Island and over a million people in India. In December 2013, chikungunya was found in the Americas for the first time; thousands of suspected cases have been documented in several island nations of the Caribbean. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), millions of US residents travel to the islands annually, who could become infected and bring the virus home with them. Experts are on alert for emerging cases in the US. On the positive side, the CDC has been working with other organizations since 2006 to establish response plans in case of emergence in new countries. Health officials are aware of the situation, but warn travelers to avoid mosquito bites if vacationing to affected countries.

Check out the World Health Organization and CDC websites for more information. Additionally, these organizations continue to update their websites as cases are documented.

About britdodson

Over several years as a research scientist, I’ve realized that we fail to communicate research in fun and exciting ways. We’re often misquoted, not due to journalist errors, but because our scientific language is complicated and riddled with jargon. I want to improve my communication abilities with this blog by using techniques from creative writing and applying them to nonfiction scientific writing. But, in order to be skilled at writing one must practice (so says writers like Stephen King). This blog will serve as my first venture into science writing. I'm very passionate about entomology, infectious diseases and human health, so my posts will initially focus on those topics.
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