The Chikungunya Virus could cause long-term effects
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Researchers found that, in rare cases, mosquito-borne chikungunya virus causes brain damage which may lead to long-term effects. This goes far beyond previous estimations, when the disease was believed to have several symptoms, but no further consequences after it cleared.
The team of researchers conducted a study on the Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) outbreak on La Réunion Island between September 2005 and June 2006. Among all the cases, the infection had serious consequences for at least 24 patients, who developed encephalitis as a consequence. Unfortunately, a number of 4 patients died later on.
However, up to three years after the outbreak in the Indian Ocean, between 30-45% of the people with a serious infection developed long term disabilities. Most of the cases were in children below 1 years old, or the elderly above 65 years old. According to Dr. Patrick Gérardin, it seems the rates were much higher in infants and older people. The overall date rate was at around 17% for those who have been bitten by the disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The virus did not seem restrained to the region, and instead was found to infect people just passing through. For example, until September 2015, there were 7,000 cases of Chikungunya Virus infection reported in Mexico, and 196 cases in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. There were also outbreaks in the Caribbean Islands, Asia, and Africa.
Symptoms of the infection include fever, joint pains or swelling, muscle pains, or skin rashes. The majority of the patients recover after a week, though in some cases, the pain lasted several months or possibly even years. However, it seems that some cases are seen with more pronounced long-term effects, such as brain damage.
According to Dr. Gérardin, there is also no vaccine to prevent CHIKV nor medicine to treat it. The problem is also more pronounced now that it was found the problems could last far beyond the week of fever and pain. Thus, the population has been warned to take proper steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. It includes wearing long sleeves and long pants, and wearing certain repellants that would discourage the insects from transmitting the disease through bite.
Complications can appear, such as encephalitis, which may turn an infection that generally goes away on its own, to being life threatening.
This year, authorities only received confirmation of one case in Florida, and there are concerns surrounding the population of mosquitoes. A possible outbreak needs be avoided by keeping the numbers in check. Both children and the elderly are at higher risk of possible deadly complications.
Image source: medscape.com