This is not a take-off from Abba or the name of a Japanese fruit(!), but is the latest in a series of diseases caused by a virus and spread by mosquitoes. While most of us were distracted by events of the world, this disease has steadily made its impact, not only in tropical regions but also in far-flung countries like Italy. In Malaysia alone, in 2008, more than 3700 cases have occurred. It used to have an incidence of 100 cases per year but this has now risen to 100 cases per week. Strangely enough, mainstream media has been deafeningly quiet and the health authorities have not done enough to educate the public on this relatively unknown condition.
Chikungunya (pronounced chi-koon-goo-nya) is but the latest in a long line of diseases carried by mosquitoes, which include Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and the West Nile Encephalitis and causing 1 million deaths worldwide.
The disease causes an illness with symptoms similar to dengue fever. CHIKV manifests itself initially with fever, rashes, bodyaches,headaches and lethargy which lasts only two to five days, followed by a prolonged period of joint pains. The pain associated with Chikungunya infection of the joints persists for weeks or months and can be confused for severe forms of arthritis.
Morbidity is high but mortality low…in other words, while people can get sick for weeks, they will invariably recover; and death is very rare. The latter could very well be the cause of why there appears to be some complacency in promoting health prevention. One needs to note, however, that with the mobility of people nowadays, this disease is no longer confined to the tropics but has been known to occur in Italy,UK and the USA.