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A newly emerging infectious viral disease in South-East Asia

Chikungunya fever was thought to be eradicated from the face of the planet in the 1960's when it vanished in India and Sri Lanka, but isolated outbreaks reappeared in the eighties in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. The name appears to be stemming from Swahili, meaning "that which bends up", referring to the pose the victims strike to relieve the acute joint pain.

After an incubation period of ca 5-12 days the patient develops acute fever above 40 degrees Celsius, severe joint pains and can convulse (most likely due to the pyrexia). The joints of upper and lower extremities are swollen and extremely painful to touch, pain that can last for months after the acute infection.

The disease is transmitted by the Asian Tiger Mosquito Aedes albopictus which infects humans with the responsible pathogen, an Alphavirus from the Togaviridiae family. In November to December 2003 168 people in the Magetan dictrict of East Java were infected and the rest of South East Asia is home to local epidemics.

No vaccine is available, so as usual: protect yourself from mosquito bites.

New Zealand GP, 3 March 2004 , p. 17
J.S. Mackenzie et al: Emerging Viral Diseases of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific; Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 7, No. 3 Supplement June 2001

Do We Really Need Another Reason to Hate Mosquitoes?

Apparently, the answer is yes because on July 17, 2014 the first case of Chikungunya Fever, acquired in Florida was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2006, over 200 cases have been reported, but only by people who had traveled outside of the United States.

A cadre of Brazilian army soldiers who had been to Haiti for reconstruction relief are among those listed as having been infected with this virus.

At this time, there is no vaccine or special treatment for those who contract the virus, which causes fever, headaches, "bone-crushing" joint pain, rash, swelling and a bent over posture. Symptoms reportedly can last for months or years.

For more detailed information, as well as a map that shows endemic areas in Europe and Africa, this can be found at Wikipedia. The article ends with an odd fact: Chikungunya had been researched in 2002 by the USA as a potential biological weapon. They failed to mention that on the news.

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