Chikungunya Virus

What is it?

Chikungunya is a disease spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease typically causes high grade fever combined with arthritis-like joint pains.

It is not a reportable disease in Ontario.

What are the risks of acquiring Chikungunya?

The virus typically circulates in Africa and parts of Asia. However, sporadic imported cases and occasional outbreaks of chikungunya fever have occurred in other geographical regions such as in Italy in 2007 and France in 2010. Previously, only imported cases of chikungunya virus-associated illness with travel or infections abroad were reported in the Americas. Recently it has been reported in the Caribbean with some evidence of local transmission as well.

The current risk in Canada of local transmission of chikungunya virus is low as the mosquitoes that typically transmit it among humans are not found in Canada. There is a risk to travellers going to the Caribbean islands and they should use protective measure against mosquito bites.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain

Other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Rash

Most people feel better within a week. In some people, joint pain may persist for months.

Is it contagious?

Chikungunya is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito carrying the chikungunya virus, mainly the Aedes albopictus species. Mosquitoes that carry chikungunya virus bite mainly during the daytime. Chikungunya transmission occurs in a cycle involving humans, several species of mosquitoes and animals. The virus can spread via travel of infected individuals between regions where competent mosquitoes exist for perpetuation of local transmission. Mosquitos can also become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus.

There is no evidence of person to person spread of this disease. There has been evidence of nosocomial and vertical transmission of chikungunya.

How is it prevented?

Chikungunya virus is not native to Canada. If travelling, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website for Travel Health Notices.  There is no vaccine or medicine that protects against this virus.

Travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling, especially during peak mosquito biting times around sunrise and sunset.

How is it tested?

If you have travelled and develop symptoms, see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling. A blood test can be used to determine if you are infected with chikungunya virus.

How is it treated?

It is best to speak to your health care provider for specific treatment recommendations. Often, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are used to treat the symptoms, while movement and mild exercise are recommended to improve the stiffness in the joints.

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