Chickungunya Fever – Questions and Answers

By Dr. M.Vijayalakshmi, M.D(Peds), M.D(USA), FAAP, DAA

Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Chickungunya Fever has been very prevalent in some areas of Kerala over the last couple of years particularly during the monsoon season. Recent reports suggest that more cases are getting reported in Kerala this monsoon season as well. The following Question and Answer section should help you understand the disease better.

What causes chikungunya fever?.

Chikungunya fever is caused by a virus which belongs to the genus Alphavirus, in the family Togaviridae.

How do humans become infected with chikungunya virus?.

Humans become infected with chikungunya virus by the bite of an infected mosquito. Aedes aegypti, a household container breeder and aggressive daytime biter which is attracted to humans, is the primary source of infection..

What can people do to prevent becoming infected with chikungunya?.

 The best way to prevent chikungunya virus infection is to avoid mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or preventive drug currently available.

  • Reduce the chance of mosquito bites and reduce mosquito breeding in the neighborhood.
  • Additionally, a person with chikungunya fever should limit their exposure to mosquito bites to avoid further spreading the infection. The person should use repellents when outdoors exposed to mosquito bites or stay indoors in areas with screens or under a mosquito net.
What is the chikungunya virus transmission cycle?.

 Mosquitoes become infected with chikungunya virus when they feed on an infected person. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other humans when they bite them.

 What type of illness does chikungunya virus cause?.

 Chikungunya virus infection can cause a debilitating illness, most often characterized by fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, and joint pain. “Silent” chikungunya virus infections (infections without illness) do occur;. Chikungunya virus infection is thought to confer life-long immunity. Acute chikungunya fever typically lasts a few days to a couple of weeks, but some patients have prolonged fatigue lasting several weeks. Additionally, some patients have reported incapacitating joint pain, or arthritis which may last for weeks or months.

What is the incubation period for chikungunya fever?.

The incubation period (time from infection to illness) can be 2-12 days, but is usually 3-7 days.

Can pregnant women become infected with chikungunya virus and pass the infection to their child?.

Pregnant women can become infected with chikungunya virus during all stages of pregnancy and have symptoms similar to other individuals. Most infections will not result in the virus being transmitted to the fetus. The highest risk for infection of the fetus/child occurs when a woman has virus in her blood (viremic) at the time of delivery. There are also rare reports of first trimester abortions occurring after chikungunya infection. Pregnant women should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites..

Will the virus be transmitted to a child by breastfeeding?.

There is no evidence that the virus is transmitted through breast milk.

What is the death rate of chikungunya fever?.

Fatalities related to chikungunya virus are rare and appear to be associated to increased age.

How is chikungunya virus infection treated?.

There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment currently available for chikungunya fever. Treatment is symptomatic and can include rest, fluids, and medicines to relieve symptoms of fever and aching such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. Aspirin should be avoided. Infected persons should be protected from further mosquito exposure during the first few days of the illness so they can not contribute to the transmission cycle..