We love our little getaways to SE Asia; be it Bali or Bangkok. With new routes directly to Bali from Townsville a lot of us will be sipping cocktails in luxury resorts or browsing Balinese markets. We often get complacent with mosquito borne diseases. Travellers are unaware of condition called Chikungunya (think of it as ‘chicken’s gunna gun ya down’); although it has nothing to do with chickens. So what is Chikungunya?
It is a viral infection transmitted by mosquito bites similar to Dengue and Ross River Virus. It is a crippling urbanised virus which means high transmission within the cities of SE Asia e.g. Jakarta, Bangkok, Port Moresby. Australia is surrounded by this virus due to our close proximity to SE Asia and the pacific islands. At this stage it is an unwelcome souvenir brought back by more than 100 Australian every year. There is no direct reported transmission but risk is at its peak. Here in Townsville we are home to one of the mosquitoes aedes aegypti which is capable of spreading it like wildfire.
The disease was first reported in Africa 15 years ago and named in Tanzania as ‘Chikungunya’ meaning ‘that which bends up.’ Since then it has exploded and swept through India, SE Asia, PNG and pacific islands. It does not kill people but gives severe symptoms similar to Ross River Virus. Symptoms start with fever and joint pain. Other associated symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
Joint pain can take up to few weeks to resolve. If you are returning back from your overseas holiday and experiencing these symptoms, please seek medical attention from your GP or nearest travel doctor. Chikungunya is a reportable disease.
There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the virus, but good news is you only get it once.
Travellers do need to prevent mosquito bite in the first place. When travelling to countries with chikungunya virus use insect repellents (not like perfume but more like sunscreen throughout the day) with higher concentration of DEET e.g. Bushman’s or RID, wear long sleeve shirts and pants, stay in places with air conditioning or that use windows and door screens.
Enjoy your upcoming travelling adventures and please travel safe!
Your travel doctor,
Dr Baj Randhawa