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Chikungunya Virus 2012: A Global Public Health Challenge

A 28-year-old woman with acute joint pains attends a clinic in Switzerland after returning from Mauritius.
A 66-year-old man develops severe myalgias in Hong Kong after returning from Africa.

These clinical cases summarize one disease:


Chikungunya–linked neither to chickens nor to the deadly avian flu–means in the Tanzanian dialect Makonde ‘that which bends up,’ referring to the stooped posture of afflicted patients. This nonfatal viral illness transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which started as an urban phenomenon, is now sweeping the globe. It is a disease that is endemic to parts of Africa and Asia with the highest number of outbreaks occurring within the tropical Indian Ocean states. Outbreaks occurred in these areas between 1960 and 1982 (Staples et al. 2009).  Then in 2004, the disease reemerged in several countries, including India, Indonesia, Maldives, Thailand and various Indian Ocean islands including Comoros, Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles. More than 1.25 million cases of Chikungunya fever have been reported in India, mainly in the Karnataka and Maharashtra provinces.  The CDC has confirmed cases in travelers to the United States.

From a global perspective, Chikungunya is a disease in evolution that poses a public health challenge. Currently, no specific treatment is available for Chikungunya fever. Implementation of integrated prevention programs in endemic areas is key (Albala-Bertrand 2000). Economic support for research and human resources for a sustainable public health infrastructure in developing countries is crucial (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 2006). Sustained vector reduction through environmental awareness and health education is needed (Landesman 2010). By reversing prevalent demographic trends, depressurizing urban centers with inadequate sanitation, eliminating global socioeconomic disparities and promoting public health accessibility universally, we can emphatically reverse the current trend in resurgent vector-borne infectious diseases.

Hormuz Nicolwala Hormuz Nicolwala (5 Posts)

Editor Emeritus: Former Medical Student Editor (2013-2015)

Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine

I am currently a first-year pediatric resident at the Children's Hospital of West Virginia. I received my MD degree from Texas A&M Health Science Center in 2014. I love medical writing!