Chikungunya is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Within North America, chikungunya has been found in Mexico, the Caribbean, the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Chikungunya is not currently found locally in Arizona; all cases to date have been travel-related. To find out if chikungunya is in an area you are traveling to, see the CDC’s Travelers’ Health page.
Chikungunya is spread primarily through mosquito bites. Chikungunya is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found in Maricopa County and other parts of Arizona; however, we do not have mosquitoes infected with chikungunya. In Arizona, chikungunya infections have been found only in people who were infected while traveling outside the United States. These mosquitoes bite humans all day long so it is important to protect against mosquito bites whenever you are outside.
It takes 3-7 days for a person to develop symptoms after being bitten by a mosquito infected with chikungunya.
Symptoms in most people. Almost all (4 out of 5) people with chikungunya will have symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pain. Individuals may also experience headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Chikungunya doesn’t often result in death; however, the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Most individuals recover in several weeks.
Chronic illness in some people. Some people may experience joint pain and fatigue that persists for months, and due to the long duration, depression may develop. The majority of individuals will still experience symptoms after three months and almost half of individuals will still experience symptoms after 10 months.
Individuals should see a healthcare provider if they develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where chikungunya is found. The provider may order blood tests to look for chikungunya or other similar viruses like dengue and Zika.
There are no specific treatment options. There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya. A doctor may recommend rest, fluids, and medication containing acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
Some medications should be avoided. Depending on where an individual has traveled, diseases other than chikungunya may be a possibility, such as dengue or Zika. These diseases often cause similar symptoms which make it hard to tell the difference between them without a blood test. Until test results are known, individuals should not take aspirin or ibuprofen as it may increase the risk of bleeding if an individual is infected with dengue.
Stop the spread. Individuals who are infected with chikungunya should be protected from any more mosquito bites for at least 7 days after the start of fever (this can be done by staying indoors and/or using mosquito repellents with DEET). During this time, chikungunya virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus by biting other people.
Protect yourself while traveling. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites, day and night. If you travel to an area with risk of chikungunya, use insect repellant containing DEET, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use windows and door screens. Use a bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.