Last Reviewed: December 2016

What is Chikungunya?

Chikungunya (CHIK) is a disease caused by the bite of a mosquito infected with the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). The disease is most often spread to people by CHIKV infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. It causes fever, joint pain, headache, and muscle pain which can be severe and disabling. Previously, the only cases of this disease in the United States were of people who traveled internationally to areas where infection is prevalent. However, in recent years mosquito transmitted cases have been reported in the U.S, but none have occurred in New York State. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not found naturally in New York State.

Who gets Chikungunya?

People of all ages can get CHIK if they are exposed to infected mosquitoes. People who travel to areas where CHIK is frequently found, such as Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, are at increased risk for getting the disease.

How is Chikungunya spread?

CHIK is spread to people by the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and Zika viruses. These mosquitoes typically bite during the day and night. Direct spread of CHIK from one person to another does not occur.

What are the symptoms of Chikungunya and when do they appear?

Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after being bit by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain but other symptoms can include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. It is very rare that CHIK results in death but symptoms can be severe and disabling. Individuals under 1 year old or over 65 years old have greater risk of more serious infection.

How is Chikungunya diagnosed?

Symptoms, travel history, and physical examination can lead a health care provider to suspect CHIK. Laboratory tests confirm diagnosis by seeing if the virus or antibodies against the virus are present in the person.

What is the treatment for Chikungunya?

There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for CHIK. Health care providers will usually try to relieve the symptoms of the illness. People with CHIK should get rest, drink plenty of water, and take medicine to reduce fever and pain. There are not yet any approved vaccines to prevent infection with Chikungunya.

Does past infection with Chikungunya make a person immune?

It is likely that people with past infection of CHIK will be protected from getting the disease again.

What can be done to prevent the spread of Chikungynya?

Since cases of CHIK in New York have been travel related, preventive measures are advised for people going to affected areas to reduce exposure to mosquitoes. The most effective protective measures are those that avoid mosquito bites. Use of mosquito netting and repellents may be helpful in minimizing exposure. More information on repellents can be found at Environmental Protection Agency- insect-repellents. In addition:

  • Be sure to follow label directions.
  • Try to reduce the use of repellents by dressing in long sleeves and pants tucked into socks or boots.
  • Children should not handle repellents. Instead, adults should apply repellents to their own hands first and then gently spread on the child's exposed skin. Avoid applying directly to children's hands. After returning indoors, wash your child's treated skin and clothing with soap and water or give the child a bath.
  • Do not apply near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.