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What you need to know: Update on Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika

Posted by Stuart Rose on

What is chikungunya?

Chikungunya is a disease caused by a virus spread through daytime mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of chikungunya are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Chikungunya disease rarely results in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Most people who get sick feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may last for months or years. There is no vaccine. You need to prevent this illness by applying a DEET or picaridin insect repellent to your exposed skin during the day. The addition of permethrin clothing treatment increases protection.

What is dengue?

Dengue (also called dengue fever) is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through daytime-biting mosquitoes. There is no vaccine. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and pain in the eyes, joints, and muscles. After you are bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms can take up to 2 weeks to develop but usually end in a week. In severe cases (dengue hemorrhagic fever), symptoms may include intense stomach pain, repeated vomiting, bleeding from the nose or gums, and death.

What is Zika?

Zika is a disease caused by a virus that is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Many people who get infected never have symptoms. In people who get sick, symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes) are usually mild and resolve completely.

Zika can cause serious birth defects in babies born to women who were infected with Zika during pregnancy. Current CDC research suggests that Zika also is strongly associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis for a few weeks to several months. Only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent damage. For more information, see Zika and GBS

Zika can also spread through sex. People with Zika can pass Zika to their partners even if they do not have symptoms at the time, or if their symptoms have gone away.  We do not know how long people who have had Zika can pass it on to their partners through sex.

The mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). People who live in or visit high altitudes are therefore at a very low risk of getting Zika from a mosquito unless they visit or travel through areas of lower elevation. Because there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, people visiting areas with Zika should take steps to prevent infection utilizing the Zika Virus Prevention Kit.


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