India has been hit by a Chikungunya outbreak. What is this disease?
Delhi and parts of North India are currently facing a spike in Chikungunya cases, after nearly 10 years. As of October 17 this year, more than 7,400 people have been afflicted with Chikungunya in the national capital even as about 3,000 dengue cases have been reported in the city. An epidemiological survey identified the Chikungunya virus to be circulating in Africa and Asia since the 1960s. Following up on early outbreaks, there has been a re-emergence of Chikungunya epidemics since 2004, causing morbidity in Europe, the Pacific archipelago, and the Americas. International travel to disease endemic regions is probably the most critical reason for these repeated Chikungunya epidemics, with imported cases now being reported in numerous non-endemic areas, including Japan, the USA, Europe and Australia.
Chinkungunya, a viral disease, is spread by mosquitoes that bite during daylight hours. Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever and joint pain, particularly affecting the hands, wrists, ankles and feet. Most patients recover after a few days but in some cases the crippling and intense joint pain may persist for weeks, months or even longer. While a commercially available vaccine exists for yellow fever, there is none present for Chikungunya and dengue. This raises concern since, similar to earlier trends, outbreaks in India have moved from place to place for nearly a decade now, since 2006. With the re-emergence of outbreaks caused by this imported disease, Chikungunya can no longer be considered a problem of tropical countries alone.