Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chikungunya hits Kerala:

A mosquito borne viral fever from East Africa has made it to India. Among the states affected are Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Chikungunya is a viral disease spread by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which breeds preferably in fresh water. How did this illness which was last heard of in the outbreak in Reunion island, spread to S. India? No one knows for sure. But it could be due to travel of infected patients from E. Africa. In any case, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is no stranger to this part of the country. Lack of proper drainage of water is the primary cause for the flare up of this mosquito.
The symptoms of this disease are fever, rashes on the chest and limbs, and most important of all- severe joint pains. In fact, the joint pain and swelling (arthritis) is the hallmark of this ailment. The word Chikungunya means “which makes one bend” in Swahili (an African language). The patients prostrate and crouch due to the arthralgia (joint pain). Chikungunya is self limiting, though it can be fatal.
Treatment is symptomatic- use of antipyretics (for fever) and anti- inflammatory drugs for joint pain (arthralgia). Chloroquine phosphate is being tried in resistant cases.
In Kerala, nearly 100 deaths are attributed to this disease. But in the absence of detailed follow up and pathological studies, the true figures may remain hidden from the people.
The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) serological test remains the gold standard for identifying the disease. This has reportedly an accuracy of nearly 100 %.
Among the leading labs performing the PCR analysis in Cochin, include DDC- international and EI lab.
Chikungunya update: (12th Oct 2006)- 1.3 million cases reported across India.
Cases reported in Kerala- approximately 50,000.


  1. Is it still there? I have heard nothing since early October?

  2. It is now more or less under control, dear Andrew. No it is not over yet, a few cases have been reported.