Chikungunya is a mosquito borne alphavirus (similar to Australia’s Ross River Virus, and EEE), of East African origin, that typically produces a fever, severe muscle and joint pain, and headaches.
They symptoms usually go away after a few weeks, but some patients can retain permanent disability.
First described in the early 1950s in Tanganyika, it was only sporadically seen over the years in eastern and central Africa. That is, until 2005, when Chikungunya made a jump to the Indian Ocean island of Réunion.
In the seven years since that time, Chik has migrated to India, Indonesia, and much of south-east Asia. It has even been imported into Italy.
I told the story several years ago in It's A Smaller World After All, but the short version is that a traveler, returning from India, brought the virus to Italy in 2007 which led to more than 290 cases reported in the province of Ravenna, which is in northeast Italy.
Many infectious disease specialists have expressed concerns that Florida – which has recently seen a return of Dengue fever after more than 5 decades – could one day face the establishment of chikungunya as well.
The two primary mosquito vectors of Chikungunya are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, both of which can be found across many regions of the Americas.
Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger) Mosquito
Dark blue: Native range
Dark green: introduced (as of December 2007)
Credit – PAHO
For more on all of this, excerpts from the press release from PAHO, and a link to the PDF.
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has published new guidelines on chikungunya, a mosquito-transmitted virus transmitted that causes fever and severe joint pain. The Guidelines for Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas aims to help countries throughout the Americas improve their ability to detect the virus and be prepared to monitor, prevent, and control the disease, should it appear.
Hundreds of people who have traveled from the Americas to Asia and Africa in the past five years have become infected with the chikungunya virus. While the virus has not spread locally in the Western Hemisphere, experts say there is a clear risk of its introduction into local mosquito populations. Local transmission could occur if mosquito populations in the United States or elsewhere in the Americas became infected with the virus and began spreading it to people in that area.