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What is chikungunya?

Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) is an infectious disease with symptoms that typically include fever and severe joint pain. It is caused by the chikungunya virus, which is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

Where does chikungunya occur?

Chikungunya occurs in many tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world, particularly in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Recent outbreaks have occurred in the Caribbean and Latin America. Limited local transmission of chikungunya has been reported in Florida and Texas.

How do people get chikungunya?

Chikungunya is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (also known as yellow fever mosquitoes) and by Aedes albopictus mosquitoes (also known as Asian tiger mosquitoes). These mosquitoes bite primarily during the day. They are not native to California; however, they have recently been detected in several counties. An Aedes mosquito can only transmit the chikungunya virus after it bites a person who has this virus in their blood. Thus far in California, chikungunya infections have been documented only in persons who were infected while traveling outside the United States. A person with chikungunya is not contagious.

What are the symptoms of chikungunya?

  • Fever and severe pain in multiple joints, often of the hands and feet.
  • Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or rash.
  • Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. 

How is chikungunya treated?

There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection. Talk with your doctor about medications to help reduce fever and joint pains. Rest and fluids are helpful to people with chikungunya. Most people will feel better in about a week, but some people may experience painful joints for several months or longer.

What can people do to keep from getting chikungunya?

There is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya. Travelers to areas where chikungunya occurs should avoid mosquito bites. Mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus should be applied to exposed skin and clothing. Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are unable to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.

What can people do to help prevent chikungunya from becoming established in California?

If you are sick with fever and joint pain after returning from an area where chikungunya occurs, contact your physician.

  • Avoid mosquito bites to help prevent possible spread of the virus to others.
  • To reduce mosquito breeding, check your yard weekly for water-filled containers.
  • Clean and scrub bird baths and pet-watering dishes weekly and dump the water from overflow dishes under potted plants and flower pots.
  • Check that gutters are not holding water.
  • Contact the District if you detect unusual numbers of mosquitoes or you are being bitten during the day.
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