Chikungunya is a virus spread among people by mosquitoes. People infected with the virus often complain of fever and joint pain. In December, 2013, a large outbreak of chikungunya began in the Caribbean. Prior to this outbreak, the disease was only found in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The Asian tiger mosquito ( Aedes albopictus ) is a type of mosquito found in NYC. Currently, Asian tiger mosquitoes in NYC are not spreading this virus, but many New Yorkers have become infected after traveling to other parts of the world, especially the Caribbean.
While the risk seems low, it is possible for an Asian tiger mosquito to spread the chikungunya virus that is in the Caribbean. If a mosquito bites a person who is infected with chikungunya, that mosquito could go on to spread the virus to another person. The Health Department is conducting human and mosquito surveillance. If local mosquitoes start to spread the virus, there will be a rapid response to eliminate infected mosquitoes.
Most people infected with the virus develop some symptoms, typically fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash. Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Most people feel better within a week, but joint pain may persist for months in some.
People at risk for more severe symptoms include babies infected around the time of birth, adults who are 65 and older and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Once a person gets the virus, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
The virus is diagnosed by a blood test.
No specific treatment is available. People infected with the virus may receive medications to help relieve their symptoms. People who have the virus should stay indoors or wear protective clothing and mosquito repellent for eight days after they start to feel sick. This will help prevent mosquitoes from spreading the virus to other New Yorkers.