Chikungunya is a viral disease characterized by fever and severe pain transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The first recorded outbreak was described in 1952 in Tanzania, although a previous outbreak described in Indonesia in 1779 may have been caused by the same viral agent.
Prevention and travel advice
Prevention mainly consists in preventing or minimizing mosquito bites. People travelling to areas where the virus is present are therefore advised to take general precautions against mosquito bites, such as:
- Fitting rooms with mosquito nets and screens
- Wearing clothes that don’t leave any skin areas exposed (e.g. long sleeves and trousers) and are light in colour, as dark colours attract mosquitoes
- Using insect repellents on exposed skin, bearing in mind that sweat will reduce their effect. Pregnant women and children should consult their doctor or pharmacist before using these products. The use of insect repellents is not recommended in babies aged under 3 months.
Finally, it is important to remember that some mosquitoes vectoring the disease are not active only at night, but also during daylight hours.
Travellers returning from an area where the disease is present who have developed a fever, especially if accompanied by joint pain, are advised to inform their doctor, or hospital, of their travel history. Particular categories such as pregnant women and people with a chronic disease or weak immune system should seek their doctor’s advice before travelling to an area endemic for chikungunya.