What Travelers Must Know About the Chikungunya Virus

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The Chikungunya virus is an infection caused by bites from mosquitos. Although it originated in Tanzania in the early 1950s, the virus has begun to make its way into the U.S.

Learn more about Chikungunya symptoms, where you could contract it and Chikungunya prevention before you travel.

The Chikungunya Virus

Chikungunya is an infection transferred by an infected female mosquito of the Ades species to humans. Scientists note this species has also carried dengue. Chikungunya’s symptoms most commonly include fever and joint pain — you can mitigate these with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Humans are the virus’s primary hosts, which can spread through people traveling and cause outbreaks. Bloodborne transmission is also possible. Researchers have identified Chikungunya in blood products undergoing screening after donation. Lab workers handling the donated blood have also contracted the virus.

In one documented case, the virus occurred during a routine healthcare situation. After drawing blood from a patient who was infected, a healthcare worker caught the virus from being stuck with a needle. The Center for Disease Control has also identified and recorded maternal-fetal transmission.

This disease made landfall in the U.S. in 2013, but it didn’t begin to move as rapidly until about a year later. By transmitting itself through travelers, the Chikungunya virus increased drastically from 2014-2016.

There were 3,941 cases, with the most common destinations

including Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In the U.S., mosquitos are most active in the months between April and September. Patients and doctors reported their cases had the most symptoms during this time.

The onset of Chikungunya symptoms typically occurs a few days after being bitten by a mosquito. This disease was rare in the U.S. before 2006 but has grown exponentially. Before making its way to America, researchers identified Chikungunya in many countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Chikungunya Symptoms

Symptoms of Chikungunya begin with a bite from an infected mosquito carrying the virus. Humans can’t spread this disease to another person without an insect carrier. These mosquitoes prefer shady areas during the day and breed near humans.

The most common Chikungunya symptoms include joint pain accompanied by swelling and fever. These will typically manifest three to seven days following a bite from an infected mosquito. Less frequent ones are rashes, headaches and muscle pain. Doctors say the joint pain could last longer than the rest of the symptoms, sometimes extending for months.

The rest of the symptoms usually only last for about seven days. There are much rarer symptoms that can occur, like with any disease. The heart and other organs can experience inflammation and infected individuals can develop eye problems. Older adults and very young children are at the highest risk for this infection, as well as people with diabetes or immune-compromising conditions.


Chikungunya virus symptoms are typically mild and do not cause fatality in most cases. Rest, pain relievers and plenty of fluids could relieve any issues the virus causes. There is no specific treatment developed since this virus rarely causes serious complications. Once fully recovered, people who have had Chikungunya become immune to it — possibly for life.

Chikungunya Prevention

The Chikungunya virus doesn’t have any vaccines protecting against becoming infected. But, you can take measurable steps to reduce your chances of contracting the disease. Chikungunya prevention is attainable during travel by following these steps.

Insect Repellants

A bug spray can deter mosquitos, preventing you from getting bitten and contracting the virus. You should always apply insect repellant after sunscreen to ensure optimal protection. Sprays registered by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are ideal and proven safe to use even when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Check that your insect repellent has DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, 2-undecanone or para-menthane-diol as active ingredients to make sure you get the best protection.

Permethrin Treatment

Permethrin treatment assists with Chikungunya prevention. Treat your clothing with permethrin to deter mosquitos when you don’t want to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts or when it’s too hot to do so. Permethrin kills and repels the mosquitos and can last for a few wash cycles. You should use 0.5% permethrin to spray your clothes, shoes and other apparel like tents and baggage. Just ensure you don’t use the products directly on your skin in case of irritation.


Sleep under a mosquito net if you don’t have screens on your windows or doors to keep bugs away from your lodging. Choose a long enough net you can tuck under the mattress so mosquitoes can’t get in. You could even treat your mosquito net with permethrin for extra protection.

Take Precautions Against Chikungunya

If you are considering traveling to an area where cases of Chikungunya have occurred, take the necessary precautions. You can only protect yourself from insects so much if you are outdoors.

Make sure your lodging has screens on its windows and doors and spray on an EPA-registered insect repellant when you’re outdoors. If you take the proper steps to protect yourself from the virus, you should be able to enjoy your travels with ease.


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