Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Mon November 30 2015

What Travelers Should Know About Chikungunya Virus

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | November 30, 2015

What Travelers Should Know About Chikungunya Virus

For those traveling to Latin America or the Caribbean in the coming month, be aware of an outbreak of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus impacting an average of one million people per year.

According to Maggie Fox of, researchers have discovered that the Chikungunya virus can cause brain inflammation called encephalitis more often than previously reported, and while not usually fatal, it is known to cause intense headaches, joint pain, rashes and fever.

Chikungunya arrived in the in the Western Hemisphere when it was first discovered on St. Martin island in December 2013. Since its discovery, the virus has spread as far north as Florida and throughout Central and South America.

The doctor who led the study, Dr. Patrick Gérardin of Central University Hospital in Saint Pierre, Reunion Island, released a warning for travelers, saying, “Since there is no vaccine to prevent Chikungunya and no medicine to treat it, people who are traveling to these areas should be aware of this infection and take steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing repellent and long sleeves and pants if possible.”

In a report from the Pan American Health Organization, over 600,000 cases of the Chikungunya virus have been diagnosed this year alone, with 76 deaths attributed to the illness. Over the last two years, more than 1.1 million cases were reported, including 194 fatalities.

Using previous medical records, Gérardin and his colleagues discovered that encephalitis had been diagnosed in 8.6 per 100,000 people. The study found in the medical journal "Neurology" claims that encephalitis was discovered more often with infants and people over 65.

With no vaccine or medicine to treat the virus, the only way to recover is through rest and pain relief.


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