Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne, viral disease that is transmitted by infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, however not many people have ever heard of it. It has been identified in over 60 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Reported imported cases in Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium have also occurred from travellers returning from the infected areas that are common holiday destinations for many Europeans.
It is a viral disease that causes symptoms of muscle and joint pain, fever, vomiting, rash and headache that can last from a few days to several weeks, and can start very soon after being bitten! Most cases have full recovery, however some cases may experience ongoing joint pain for several months or even years. Serious complications are rare but may occur in the elderly casuing death.
As there is no vaccine to prevent this infection the only way to stop transmission is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Many of the mosquito precautions are common knowledge and will minimise your risk greatly. We recommend you:
- Use a tropical insect repellent that contains 30% DEET (eg. Repel)
- Wear long sleeve light coloured clothing
- Sleep in an air-conditioned room with screened windows
- Use a treated mosquito net over the bed
- Treat your clothes with Permethrin (eg. Debugger Soak or Spray)
- Avoid using body sprays and perfume as this will attract mosquitoes
Travel Bug Vaccination Clinic can advise you on this and provide you with the products suggested.
As yet Chikungunya has not been established in the Northern regions of Australia where the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are also found. This mosquito is predominantly a day time biter that breeds easily in any vessel that collects fresh water such as:
- old tyres
- coconut shells
- water-filled tins
Any traveller to tropical areas that are in or adjacent to the Indian Ocean should be aware of the risk of infection and take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites. Any returned traveller who develops symptoms of fever and muscle pain should seek medical advice from a travel health specialist as soon as possible, and mention that you have been to a Chikungunya outbreak area.