Chikungunya virus is similar to Dengue fever but can cause severe and debilitating joint pains that can last for months. It infected more than one million people and killed 155 since it started to spread in the Americas last year.
The name of this disease means "bending over in pain" as characterized by its hallmark wherein the patients infected with the virus will manifest symptoms of severe body and joint pains that can last from weeks to months.
The disease is not new for people in Central America because it has long been diagnosed in travelers returning from countries in Asia and Africa. However, exactly a year ago, the outbreak started in the Caribeean Island and has spread to neighboring countries. In fact, it is the first ever outbreak in the western hemisphere as confirmed by health officials.
Based on the latest data, all countries in Central America have reported cases of the disease. United States have reported a total of 11 confirmed cases of local infection this year.
The culprits are two types of mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopticus, which also carry the virus that can cause Dengue fever. Though Chikungunya is less fatal than Dengue Fever, it causes more intense joint pain and inflammation that can last for months, and in some cases, it lasted for years.
However, since Chikungunya is rarely fatal, the main issue and focal point of officials is the burden on health services and the impact of the symptoms on the economy. Many of those infected required longer rest periods due to the debilitating pain they are experiencing.
"The high number of cases can overload health services," says Dr. Pilar Ramon-Pardo, regional adviser for PAHO, the regional office of the World Health Organization. She added, "Clinicians have to be ready to diagnose."
The tropical and warm climate of regions in the Americas offers potential that Chikungunya to last for years just like Dengue Fever. However, there are many precautionary measures that can be implemented to prevent the proliferation of infected mosquitoes. Cleaning the environment and eradicating potential breeding grounds of mosquitoes are recommended.