Chikungunya is an epidemic-prone, vector-borne disease of considerable prevalence in many parts of India, including Gurgaon, the millennium city, which has reported positive cases in the past. It is an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites.
The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
Is it safe to travel to chikungunya-affected areas?
Africa, Asia, parts of Central and South America; islands in the Indian Ocean, Western and South Pacific, and Caribbean are traditionally considered at risk and anyone travelling to these regions should remain extra careful. Although chikungunya does not kill, high morbidity rates and prolonged polyarthritis may lead to considerable discomfort in the affected population, writes Dr P Venkata Krishnan, Internal Medicine, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon.
There are two key pointers to remember while deciding on such travel destinations. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya and the only way is to prevent mosquito bites. Factors responsible for the resurgence of chikungunya in and around the Indian sub-continent include viral mutation and emergence of Aedes albopictus as a more efficient vector, besides Aedes aegypti, for the transmission of the disease. The lack of herd immunity and in-efficient vector control measures in the affected areas are other important factors.
Preventing bites can be difficult, but it is important, since just one bite can make you ill. Follow the steps below to reduce the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes:
*Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats to cover exposed skin.
*Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
*If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent after that.
*Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands,
eyes, and mouth.
*Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). Treated clothing remains protective even after multiple washings. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
*Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
*Use a mosquito net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If diagnosed with chikungunya
Symptoms are generally self-limiting and last for 2–3 days. The virus remains in the human system for 5-7 days and mosquitoes feeding on an infected person during this period can also become infected. Chikungunya shares some clinical signs with dengue and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common. Most people recover fully, with symptoms resolving in three to 10 days. For some people, joint pain may continue for months, or even years.
What to eat after diagnosis
Diet is an important part of treatment and recovery, and as a viral disease, chikungunya is no different. Tender coconut water is a good choice that helps detoxify the body, while keeping you hydrated. Besides, one should have green, leafy vegetables because they are low in calories but high in vitamins and other minerals. A light preparation of any yellow dal (lentil) or soup is good due to their protein content while the water in the dal helps in keeping your body hydrated. Foods rich in vitamin c, such as oranges, kiwis and guavas, are a must during chikungunya not only because their help bring back appetite but they are also known for improving immunity.