Chikungunya is a viral infection characterised by fever and severe joint pain. Its name comes from a Tanzanian word which means, “that which bends up”. It refers to the stooped posture and painful joints that are characteristic features of this disease. There have recently been outbreaks of the disease in Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, and Delhi In India.
The condition known as sandhi jwara in Sanskrit has the similar symptoms to chikungunya. Sandhi jwara which means ‘pain in joints’ and this is one of the primary symptoms of chikungunya.
Causes of Chikungunya:
The main cause of spread of Chikungunya is stagnated water. The aedes aegypti mosquito lays its eggs only in stagnated water.
Ayurveda treats Chikungunya as a vata dosha disorder. Vata is the air component of our body, which represents the air that we breathe and the dissolved gases in our blood. In a healthy person there is a proper balance of the vata dosha with the other two doshas, pitta dosha and kapha dosha. But when this balance loses then disease conditions may start. Chikungunya is such a disease which is caused due to the lessening of the vata dosha.
Symptoms of Chikungunya:
The symptoms of Chikungunya are very similar to those of dengue fever, except that there is no hemorrhagic or shock syndrome form. The incubation period is usually 1-12 days- that means the disease manifests 1 to 12 days after the bite of the mosquito. Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection can cause a debilitating illness characterized by high fever which can reach up to 104 degree Fahrenheit. There will be a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms, including severe headache, chills, rash, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and joint pain. The normal symptoms persist usually upto 3 days but in a few cases, they may be upto 2 weeks.
The joints of the extremities will become swollen and painful to touch and because of this, the disease has been classified among the Arthritic Viruses. Platelet Count in the body decrease till the disease persist. A condition known as Nuetropenia occurs at times. It is a condition in which the antibodies destroy the nuetrophils which are important white blood cells that help fight infection. Children, pregnant women and person under stress will be prone for more serious form of the complications.
Treatment of Chikungunya:
There are no specific treatments which can cure Chikungunya. Main purpose of treatment is the management of fever and pain. For treatment of Chikungunya fever, Paracetamol is given in the first few days. It is only required in cases where fever management is essential. Other medical conditions if any, must be evaluated before taking any medicines. Other non steroidal medicines such as Tramadol may be taken for pain management. Again all these medications also come with other side effects such as possible damage to kidneys and stomach. Ayurvedic or Homeopathic treatments can also be helpful in joint pain relief.
Chikungunya is rarely fatal, however the chronic joint pain associated with it can substantially reduce the quality of life for a patient. A vaccine can be very useful in areas where there is a high risk of Chikungunya infection.
Prevention of Chikungunya:
Preventing getting bitten by a mosquito, while being the best defense against infection, is easier said than done.
- Wear clothes which cover most of the body.
- Use mosquito repellents
- Use curtains or window nets which prevent entry of mosquitoes to the house
- Use of cream or spray that can be applied on skin.
The best way is community prevention of mosquito breeding. Drain all the water collected around your house (for example in a pot or water cooler). Ensure that drainages etc. are either closed or chemicals applied. Pond, lakes, and pools in the area need to be cleaned regularly.