What is Chikungunya?

Chikungunya is a viral disease can be transmitted to human by mosquitoes and causes significant symptoms, such as arthralgia and fever. It was first described in 1952 when an outbreak in southern Tanzania was observed.


Chikungunya is an RNA virus and a member of the alphavirus genus of the Togaviridae family. It has been identified in more than 60 countries worldwide in the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

The virus is passed on through bites of female mosquitoes that are infected. The mosquitoes may bite at any time but are most active outdoors during the early morning and late afternoon.  The incubation period can range greatly from 2 to 12 days, but the initial symptoms typically present 4 to 8 days after the infected mosquito bite.


The initial signs of chikungunya include a sudden fever and joint pain. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Rash

These symptoms are usually short-lived and improve after a few days, but may extend over a period of a few weeks or longer. For this reason, the virus can be referred to as acute, sub-acute or chronic.


Most individuals that suffer from chikungunya make a full recovery, but some patients may notice permanent effects. Joint pain, in particular, is often reported to continue for several months or years after the initial infection.

Additionally, complications involving the eyes, heart and nervous system may also present. It is rare for complications to have a serious impact on overall health but the virus can contribute to the cause of death, usually in elderly people that have weaker immune defenses.


To diagnose chikungunya serological tests may be required. For example, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) can identify the presence of antibodies against the virus. This is most effective several weeks after illness onset, but can help to identify the disease in this time period.

A virological test, such as reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PRC), may be more useful in the first week of symptoms to detect the presence of the virus before antibodies have developed.


As there is no antiviral drug currently available to treat chikungunya, the treatment is primarily driven towards symptomatic relief. It is important to maintain adequate fluid intake and encourage patients to rest while their body fights the viral infection.

For many patients, the joint pain is the most debilitating symptom and needs specific attention in the management of this condition. Often, analgesic medications are able to offer adequate relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen are able to offer a significant improvement in pain, although other medications such as paracetamol are also effective.

Additionally, an antipyretic medication is usually preferable if there is fever present. Many drugs, such as paracetamol and aspirin, can offer pain relief and a reduction in fever simultaneously.


The most important factor for the risk of becoming infected with chikungunya virus is the proximity to mosquito vector breeding sites.

For this reason, prevention of the viral infection involves minimizing water-filled areas near residential areas that are ideal breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. Additionally, insecticides can be used to eliminate infected mosquitoes during an outbreak.

It is recommended that individuals wear full clothing to minimise skin exposure during the day when mosquitoes may bite. Insect repellants may also offer some protection, although physical coverage such as a mosquito net while sleeping is preferable.

It is wise for people travelling to areas known to have a higher risk of this viral infection to take appropriate precautions to avoid infection. There is no vaccine available, so appropriate clothing and insect repellent should be worn.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 8, 2023

Susan Chow

Written by

Susan Chow

Susan holds a Ph.D in cell and molecular biology from Dartmouth College in the United States and is also a certified editor in the life sciences (ELS). She worked in a diabetes research lab for many years before becoming a medical and scientific writer. Susan loves to write about all aspects of science and medicine but is particularly passionate about sharing advances in cancer therapies. Outside of work, Susan enjoys reading, spending time at the lake, and watching her sons play sports.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Chow, Susan. (2023, July 08). What is Chikungunya?. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 18, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chikungunya.aspx.

  • MLA

    Chow, Susan. "What is Chikungunya?". News-Medical. 18 July 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chikungunya.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Chow, Susan. "What is Chikungunya?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chikungunya.aspx. (accessed July 18, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Chow, Susan. 2023. What is Chikungunya?. News-Medical, viewed 18 July 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chikungunya.aspx.


  1. Gloria Rojas Gloria Rojas Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela says:

    I have a chicungunya! Age 61. I have diarrhea and vomit too.

  2. Hermes Alvarez Hermes Alvarez Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela says:

    En la Ciudad de Turèn Municipio Villa Bruzual del Estado Portuguesa, Ataca el Virus de Chikungunya es transmitido por la picadura de un zancudo Aedes Aegypti y el Aedes Albopictus), previamente infectado.....

  3. suzette gongadean suzette gongadean Barbados says:

    I've the chikungunya virus, my symptoms are high fever, severe headache, paralyzing joint pain, swelling, nausea, vomiting and rashes. It has been 4 weeks since and i'm still having joints pain and swelling in my fingers.

  4. Alejandro Suarez Robalino Alejandro Suarez Robalino Ecuador says:

    I do not know if I have the disease, but I feel Diahrrea, 38 degrees of temperature, nails sensibility. I almost do not have neather joint pains nor headache.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.