Chikungunya symptoms, causes and herbal treatment

What is Chikungunya?

Chikungunya is a viral fever spread by mosquitoes that have been infected by the virus responsible for this disease. A patient suffering from Chikungunya experiences extreme pain in the joints. And no, joint pain is not the only known symptom of this disease; it also causes debilitating muscle pain, a feeling of nausea, fatigue, rashes and headache. Chikungunya fever symptoms, causes and ayurvedic treatment

Chikungunya Causes

The virus that causes this disease is a RNA virus belonging to the genus alpha virus which in turn belongs to the family Togaviridae. The disease got its name chikungunya from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning ‘to become twisted or distorted.’ Wondering why such a weird name? Because of the posture Chikungunya patients generally take owing to the debilitating pain in the muscles and joints of their body.

Know about Chikungunya mosquitoe

The mosquitoes that carry Chikungunya virus are basically a female breed. And the species that most commonly cause the condition are Aedesaegypti and Aedesalbopictus. An interesting thing to note here is that these mosquitoes are responsible for other debilitating diseases like Dengue and Zika, also. Although, these mosquitoes remain active throughout the day, they are most dangerous during early mornings and late afternoons. Except the species Ae. Aegypti, which also bites outdoors, the two species mentioned above generally bite in an indoor setting.

Now, an important question that arises here is -how do Aedes mosquitoes get infected? They get infected when they feed on the blood of an infected individual. The virus that passes into the body of the mosquito now begins to incubate. And after an incubation period of eight to ten days, the infected mosquito becomes potentially dangerous and capable of infecting other individuals that it bites.

The most surprising aspect here is that upon once been infected by such a virus, a mosquito remains capable of spreading the disease throughout its life. By means of transovarial transmission, the infected female mosquitoes can also transmit the virus to its offspring. What is even more alarming is that there is noway to differentiate between a mosquito infected by this virus and one that is not. Risky, isn’t it?

Also Read: Home remedies for dengue fever

What is the role of the infected human?

Well, they act as a carrier and multiplier of the virus. They also act as an agent that causes healthy mosquitoes to get infected after they suck on their blood. For many days at astretch, the virus keeps circulating in the blood stream of the infected individual. And during this period, if a mosquito bites the infected individual, the virus gets transmitted into it.

The breeding of Aedes mosquitoes takes place in water filled receptacles that are located near human dwelling spaces. These mosquitoes are fond of dark areas, meaning spaces under the beds and dark bathrooms serve as a breeding ground for them. They also love to proliferate in the water that gathers in discarded human wastes. Beware of overcast weather, as they are also highly active during such gloomy weather conditions.

Now, that you have an understanding of the disease and what causes it, you might be interested in a few related facts. Just look at the points below, and boost your knowledge linked to Chikungunya.

Important facts about Chikungunya

  • You probably know that one of the most common symptoms of Chikungunya is joint pain. You also know that this pain is crippling. What you probably don’t know is that this pain may come in waves or may vary in duration.
  • Many symptoms of this disease resemble those of Zika and dengue. And therefore, there may be chances of misdiagnosis.
  • There is no direct treatment for the disease. Most of the treatments are aimed at alleviating the symptoms.
  • You are more prone to suffer from this disease, when you live near a site where the breeding of Chinkungunya mosquitoes is likely to occur. For instance, a blocked drain can act as a breeding ground for these mosquitoes. Hence, the cleaner your surroundings, the more protected you are.
  • Although, cases of Chikungunya are mostly reported from Africa and Asia (especially the Indian subcontinent), a major outbreak did plague several American countries in the year 2015.
  • It was first reported in the republic of Tanzania in 1952.

I am suffering from Chikungunya fever – Is this matter of concern?

When you are suffering from this disease, the first question that probably arises in your mind is- should I be concerned? To answer this question in a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is difficult. The reality is that the majority of people suffering from this disease recover fully. And the symptoms subside within three to ten days. But a small section of people also complain of suffering from the pain for as long as a couple of months or even years.

Although, this disease is rarely fatal, it can occasionally cause severe problems in the patients, especially when they are old or suffering from other chronic illnesses. As a general rule, people who suffer once from this disease are less likely to suffer from it in the future.

Although, this disease usually doesn’t cause a lot of serious concerns, it’s better to avoid visiting places with recent outbreaks. No doubt, this disease doesn’t spread from human to human, but going to a place afflicted with this disease may expose you to infected mosquito bites. So, unless and until it’s extremely urgent, you should avoid going to a place of known outbreak, even if it’s your granny’s place.

To save yourself from Chikungunya mosquito, you must use certain protective measures. Carrying an insect repellent with you whenever you go out can be of great help in this regard. Wearing the right clothes is also extremely important. Avoid wearing short sleeves and try to wear bottoms that cover your legs entirely. Keeping your face covered with handkerchief or any other piece of cloth can also prove beneficial.

Just like protecting your body, protecting your house is also important. Install window nets and other protective sheets for your ventilators. And keep your doors closed for as long as possible. This way you will prevent mosquitoes from making an entry into your home. In order to avoid unnecessary concerns, you can stay indoors, except when it’s very important to go out.

Old people or people with diabetes or heart diseases should take special care. They should avoid being in places where an outbreak has recently occurred, and make sure their surroundings are clean and free of mosquitoes.

One thing that you need to keep in mind is that the outcome of this disease could be acute, sub-acute or chronic. So, taking it lightly isn’t a very good idea.

Chikungunya Symptoms

As mentioned earlier, the most common signs are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joints pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue

However, one thing that needs to be remembered is that the onset of this fever is abrupt, meaning there will be no obvious tell-tale signs.

A few Chikungunya infected people also face unusual symptoms such as gastrointestinal complaints. Patients have also claimed to have suffered from heart complications, eye problems as well as neurological issues. There have also been cases when the symptoms were so mild the disease went unrecognized, as a result of which the condition of the patient worsened and complications occurred. And that is why it is of the utmost importance to seek medical advice even at the slightest hint of this disease.

When is the right time to see a medical practitioner?

In more than 60 countries spanning continents like Europe, Africa, Asia and America, cases of Chikungunya have been reported. The disease is more widespread than you can possibly gauge. And because the transmission is fast, it spreads like an epidemic if not well combated. The disease begins to show symptoms within four to eight days of the mosquito bite. However, a range of two to twelve days is also not uncommon.

Pay a visit at your doctor’s clinic, anytime you doubt you may be suffering from Chikungunya. The best way to figure out whether or not you are infected is by looking for symptoms. Does your body show symptoms that resemble those mentioned above? If yes, see your doctor.

And because your doctor cannot arrive into any conclusion without getting your blood test done, you will have to show patience.

Once the blood report comes and the disease is confirmed, you must save your other family members from being infected by saving yourself from new mosquito bites.

Diagnosis

There are scores of techniques that may be used to diagnose the onset of Chikungunya. The occurrence of IgM and IgG anti-Chikungunya antibodies can be confirmed with serological tests such as ELISA or enzyme-linked immune sorbent assays. The levels of IgM antibody is at peak between three and five weeks post the onset of the disease, and this persists for around two months.

And therefore, when the samples are collected in the first week of the onset of the illness, they should be examined using serological as well as virological methods (RT-PCR).In the first couple of days itself, the isolation of the virus from the blood becomes possible. Although there are scores of (RT–PCR) methods, their sensitivity varies significantly.

Prevention and control

  • The first and most important step towards ensuring safety is to maintain cleanliness. We are not talking about personal hygiene, but the cleanliness of the surrounding areas where you reside. Dirty places act as a breeding ground for not just Chikungunya mosquitoes but also mosquitoes that cause other diseases. So, the first step would be to remove all water-filled containers with standing water.
  • Even if it’s a natural water body in your locality that is dumped with wastes and garbage, you should get it cleaned by professionals after consulting with other locals. These pools of dirty water may be serving as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The use of homemade insecticides can be effectively used to kill adult mosquitoes as well as mosquito larvae.
  • A lot of people also prefer to use mosquito repellents for warding off this nasty breed of insects. These repellents can be applied on skin directly for effective results. Although, there is no dearth of chemical repellents available in the market, homemade repellents are great and cause no side effects.
  • Another important thing to keep in mind is that these mosquitoes mostly bite during day time. So, if you have the habit of taking naps in the afternoon, make sure you sleep under a mosquito net. This will save you from infected mosquito bites. Insecticide vaporizers easily available in the market can also be used to avoid indoor bites.

Ayurvedic home remedies for Chikungunya

As has been already discussed before, this disease doesn’t have any specific treatment option. In simple words, most of the treatments are directed at offering relief to the patient from the symptoms. And because allopathic medicines used for relieving symptoms can make the patient excessively weak, it’s better to go for Ayurvedic options.

In Ayurveda, Chikungunya is known as Sandhijwara which means “fever of the joints“. The medicines good for fighting the fever are Vilvadi Gulika, Sudarsanam Gulika, Panchathikta Kashayam and Amritarishta. In ayurveda, it is considered as ‘Vata doksha’ disorder. Changes in diet like increased intake of fluid food, vegetables, reduced intake of oil and tea/coffee can help you cure this problem.

Some of the most important and effective Ayurvedic Chikungunya treatments are as follows-

  • Massage a mixture of castor oil and cinnamon powder on the joints that are afflicted with pain. But for effective results, mixing the two in the right proportion is extremely important. Using a pinch of cinnamon powder with two to three tablespoons of castor oil works fine. But you must not forget to heat the concoction before applying.
  • You can also apply clove oil or garlic paste on the joints where you feel the pain. This acts as a fast pain reliver.
  • If you want to build immunity or treat the fever, try chewing tulsi leaves daily. Even Giloy (Guduchi) leaves may be chewed for effective results or you can have giloy stem juice to strengthen the immune system. Boil stem in water for some time, strain and consume this water.
  • Consuming the juice of papaya leaves can also offer a wealth of benefits to the patient. But make sure you don’t consume more than two teaspoons of this juice, once daily.
  • Garlic is full of selenium and sulfur that help reduce joint pain. You can prepare garlic-infused oil at home and massage it over affected areas. Mince two cloves of garlic. Then heat two tablespoons of sesame oil in a pan. Put the garlic in it, and let it stay till it turns black. This oil, when cools down, can be used to gain relief from pain and inflammation. Also include raw and cooked garlic into your diet.
  • Ginger is known to improve blood circulation in the body. It is, in every form, beneficial for Chikungunya patients. You can take ginger tea three times a day. Prepare it at home by adding 5 to 6 slices of ginger in a cup of boiling water. Let it simmer for some time and then consume the resulting drink. It will make you feel much better.
  • Turmeric, due to its curcumin content, acts as a great anti-inflammatory agent. For fast relief, drink turmeric milk twice daily until you start feeling better. To prepare this concoction, add half a teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of warm milk, stir the mixture till turmeric lumps disappear, and then drink it. Read Turmeric medicinal uses and benefits.
  • Chili peppers are rich in capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory agent. And that is why their application on affected areas causes inflammations to subside. Heat a cup of olive or jojoba oil in a pan, and add three tablespoons of cayenne pepper to it. Also add half a cup of grated beeswax into the mixture. Stir well and put off the flame after some time. Let the mixture cool and then apply it on affected areas for pain relief. The mixture can also be stored inside the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Use the paste as and when required.
  • Drinking coconut water during the illness will keep your liver functioning properly. Drink three to four glasses a day for optimum results.
  • Drinking cow’s milk, while chewing on grapes can be a great remedy too. Sip on a cup of milk and have seedless grapes side by side. This won’t just taste delicious but will also offer you great relief from all inflammatory pains. As a matter of fact, the phenolic compounds present in grapes possess great anti-oxidant and antiviral properties. Stay away from this remedy if you are lactose intolerant.
  • You can also take a concoction of water, coriander powder, and basil leaves. Just add 10 basil leaves and 10 grams of coriander powder in 1 liter of boiling water. Let the mixture cool. Drink this throughout the day, at three-hour intervals.
  • Chikungunya fever can be made to subside if Tribhuvan Kriti (125-250mg) is taken every day for at least five days.
  • To control fever, it’s best to take a mixture of milk and Ashwagandha powder (5gm). Read Ashwagandha powder benefits.
  • Chikungunya symptoms can also be controlled by taking Vettumarana Vati (125-250 mg) for a week, at least, twice daily.
  • Epsom salt is also an amazing way to make your distressed body feel well. Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water. Add one cup each of Epsom salt and baking soda into it. Immerse yourself into the water and enjoy the relaxing bath for about 15 minutes. Do this regularly. In case, it’s a particular part of the body that is afflicted by pain, then do this- take a bowl of lukewarm water, add a tablespoon of Epsom salt into it and dip the affected part into it. Stay for five minutes. You can do this four to five times a day, for effective results.
  • You can also take help of cold compresses. A cold compress will make the nerve endings in an affected area numb; as a result, you won’t feel any pain. Swellings can also be addressed using this method. To prepare cold compress, crush a handful of ice and wrap it with a thick towel. Hold this compress against the affected area for a couple of minutes. Do this as and when the pain becomes unbearable.
  • Take Vilvadi Gulika, Sudarsanam Gulika, Panchathikta Kashayam and Amritarishta to cure fever and joint pain.
  • Consume Amrutadi guggul and punarnavadi guggul for joint pain.
  • Burn some camphor with a few drops of neem oil (Use dried neem leaves if oil is not available) in every room of your house. It will kill all the mosquitoes in your house. Do it regularly in your home during infected season.
  • You can also use Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) to strengthen joint muscles.

Although these remedies are very effective, they show results faster only when a certain set of dos and don’ts are followed by the patient. So, let’s now have a look at some of them-

Dos and Don’ts for Chikungunya victims

  • Drink plenty of water. Keeping the body hydrated during this disease can prove lifesaving.
  • A few items have to be cut from your diet temporarily. They are- tamarind, cauliflower, cabbage and curd.
  • Intake of bitter vegetables is a must. Find Tamarind health benefits.
  • Dairy is not a great food option when you are suffering from Chikungunya. So, keep away from it.
  • Take light meals so that it’s not too taxing on your digestive system.
  • Keep spicy and over-fried food items at an arm’s length.
  • Rest, rest and rest! Your body needs time to recover.

There is no proper and sure treatment of Chikungunya. Changes in diet & living and prevention’s can help you reduce symptoms fast. Best thing is to avoid having mosquitoes around you.

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