Sciensano is responsible for the epidemiological surveillance of chikungunya in humans in Belgium, as well as for the monitoring of exotic mosquitoes of the Aedes genus through the MEMO+ project).
Chikungunya is an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by the chikungunya virus. The disease is present in parts of South America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. With the tiger mosquito now established in southern Europe, outbreaks of chikungunya can occur there (e.g. in Italy). In Belgium, only imported cases are diagnosed in travellers from regions where the virus circulates.
What is chikungunya?
- Chikungunya is an infectious disease caused by the chikungunya virus, transmitted by the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and by the mosquito that also transmits yellow fever (Aedes aegypti). Although an infected pregnant woman can also transmit the disease to her child during childbirth, this is uncommon.
- The disease is present in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In the last few decades, mosquito vectors of chikungunya have also reached Europe and the Americas.
- Most people (about 3 out of 4) infected with the chikungunya virus develop symptoms after an incubation period of 2 — 12 days.
- Symptoms can be mild or severe and are similar to the flu, such as:
- a high fever
- muscle and joint pain
- a skin rash
- and eye disorders.
- Infants, the elderly or people with a chronic disease (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) often develop more severe symptoms.
- Most symptoms disappear after a few weeks, except for joint pain, which may persist for months or years.
Diagnosis and treatment
- If the doctor suspects chikungunya, the diagnosis can be made by way of a blood test. Depending on the stage of the disease, different tests can be used, such as a PCR test and serology.
- There is no specific treatment for chikungunya. Treatment is symptomatic. Symptoms are treated with painkillers and antiphlogistica. There is no vaccine available. Prevention consists of avoiding mosquito bites.