So should we be worried? Yes, to a certain degree. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the mosquito carriers of chikungunya, are also carriers of dengue and Zika. However, chikunguya is the lesser of evils, so to speak, of the three. As Tayag remarked in an interview on radio station dzBB and reported by GMA News Online, “Hindi po (nakamamatay ang chikungunya), mas matakot po tayo sa dengue.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chikungunya shares similar clinical signs with dengue -- it cause symptoms like fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. In fact, it can be misdiagnosed as dengue.
The most notable trait of chikungunya is the severe joint pain it causes in patients (Chikungunya means “to become contorted” in Kimakonde, one of the languages spoken in Tanzania where the virus was first observed.) “The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks,” says the WHO. Most chikungunya patients recover fully with only some developing complications, making it considerably less threatening than dengue. Complications are related to the eyes, heart and nervous system, and prolonged joint pain that can last for months.
Developing chikungunya during pregnancy isn’t as terrifying as developing Zika while pregnant either as reports of harm to the developing fetus whose mothers have contracted the disease is rare. Mother-child transmission is very low, with documented cases seen in mothers with chikungunya fevers in the days shortly before, during and after delivery. Zika, on the other hand, is linked with microcephaly, a serious neurological defect in newborn babies resulting in a shrunken head and brain.
As it is with dengue and Zika, there is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Treatment is directed primarily at relieving symptoms like paracetamol for fever and analgesics for pain.
To protect your family, Tayag reminded the public of the DOH’s “4S” campaign:
SEARCH and destroy mosquite breeding places.
Use SELF-PROTECTION measures. Wear long-sleeved clothes and pants, and apply mosquito repellent. Read what repellent WHO recommends as the most effective to ward of mosquitoes here.
SEEK early consultation with a health professional for fever lasting more than two days.