Snakes, sharks, lions, box jelly fish… they are all deadly. When adventurers travel, they will try their best to stay out of the way or to use protective gear to be safe. Yet, these animals don’t kill over a million people each year like the mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes must be feared more because they can transmit diseases, virus and protozoans that can kill humans. Some of the most dreadful diseases you must watch out for are West Nile virus (WNV), dog heartworm, and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Horrible protozoan diseases include malaria and filarial diseases, while viral diseases include encephalitis, dengue and yellow fever. Even when mosquitoes are not transmitting diseases, pathogens and parasites, their bites can cause you allergic reactions triggering skin irritation, red bumps and excessive itching.
If you are an adventurer who prefers to spend days and nights in the wilds of exotic places like Central America – Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and Nicaragua – be warned. Another mosquito-borne disease is fast spreading in this region. It is called “chikungunya.” If you are travelling soon in any of these tropical places, learn more about the disease from this article Chikungunya: What Travelers Need to Know posted in Independent Traveller – Travel Tips Section.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya (chik-en-gun-ye) is a mosquito-borne virus that causes fever and joint pain. According to the World Health Organization, it was first identified in Tanzania in 1952, and outbreaks have occurred throughout Asia and Africa, often in cycles. In recent years, the virus has progressively moved north. A village in Italy suffered an outbreak in 2007, and in late 2013 the first case of chikungunya was recorded in the Americas, with several people in St. Martin falling ill.
As of July 2014, the CDC reports that cases of chikungunya have been identified in 22 countries in North America, including much of the Caribbean as well as 19 Asian countries and 25 countries in Africa. The U.S. and Mexico have reported several cases of “imported” chikungunya, meaning that the people who got it had already been bitten and infected before they came back home. Authorities in Florida are bracing for the disease to spread, with the state Department of Health placing information about chikungunya and its symptoms on its website.
The article offers basic information that you would wind helpful when you travel to any of the places where chikungunya is present:
- How does it spread? It spreads through mosquito bites of the species Aedes; it is the same mosquito carrier for dengue. The mosquito becomes a carrier when it bites a person infected with the virus; it transmits the same by biting another person. These mosquitoes are more active during the day.
- What are the symptoms? Chikungunya has the following symptoms: fever, severe muscle and joint pain, headaches, joint swelling, and/or rash. Symptoms start to appear between 3 and 7 days.
- What kind of treatment is there? Chikungunya has no treatment, like most viral diseases. It is important to see a doctor who can prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines and recommend lab tests to rule out dengue, a more serious Aedes-borne disease.
- Who is most susceptible? Travelers who love the tropics such as Africa, Asia, certain islands in the Indian Ocean, and some parts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, islands of the Western and South Pacific face higher risk. Those with compromised immune systems such as the elderly, very young children and those with other diseases or disorders may manifest more severe symptoms.
- What precautions can I take? Since there is still no vaccine against this disease, your best defense is to prevent mosquito bites. You can apply mosquito repellent with DEET or picaridin as an active ingredient. Wearing protective clothes treated with permethrin can help.
Take this a step further…
Do you want to know “What can travelers do to prevent chikungunya?” Read about “Chikungunya” from a post in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since there is no medicine to cure or vaccine to prevent the disease, much of the prevention has to come from you.
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
- Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
- DEETExternal Web Site Icon (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
- Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on childrenExternal Web Site Icon. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Use permethrin-treatedExternal Web Site Icon clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
- Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If you are a true-blooded adventurer or fan of the tropical destinations, you need not worry. Just make sure to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes that can be carrying dreadful viruses or parasites that can cause chikungunya or some other terrible disease. Stick to these advices from CDC and you’ll be fine.