Chikungunya Virus Fact Sheet

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

Page last updated: 24 June 2015

What is chikungunya virus infection?

Chikungunya virus is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

Chikungunya virus occurs in Africa, India, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. It is considered to be emerging or re-emerging in many regions of the world. Large outbreaks of chikungunya virus infection have become more frequent in many regions, including a number of Indian Ocean and Pacific Island nations, including Papua New Guinea, as well as emergent cases in other areas, such as Italy and the Caribbean.

Travellers can become infected with the chikungunya virus if travelling to a region of the world where chikungunya is found. The chikungunya virus is not currently endemic in Australia. There have been no locally-acquired cases, though mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus are present in some areas of Queensland.

What are the symptoms?

The illness typically starts from 2 to 4 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, but it can range from 1 to 12 days.

The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include muscle pain, headache and rash. Most patients feel better in 1 to 2 weeks but there may be some lasting symptoms such as joint pain and inflammation. Symptoms can be severe and disabling.

How is it spread?

The virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, mainly Aedes (Ae.) aegypti and Ae. albopictus.

Ae. aegypti is found in the topics and sub-tropics, and in Australia it is found in parts of Queensland. Ae. albopictus is found in some temperate regions as well as the tropics and subtropics. In Australia, Ae. albopictus is currently confined to the Torres Strait islands.

Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus hide in and around the house and bite during the day.

Who is at risk?

Persons travelling to or living in countries with known chikungunya virus activity are at risk of being bitten by infected mosquitoes. The only way to reduce the risk is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes (refer to Preventing mosquitos bites).

People as risk for severe disease include newborns exposed during delivery, older adults (>65 years of age) and people with certain medical conditions (high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes).

How is it prevented?

Currently, there is no vaccine registered for use in Australia. Preventing mosquito bites is the only way to reduce the risk of infection.

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Preventing mosquito bites

Travellers and residents in affected areas should protect themselves from mosquito bites:

  • Use personal insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin and reapply according to the label.
  • Use mosquito coils and plug-in mozzie zappers inside.
  • Wear protective, light coloured clothing. Permethrin impregnated fabrics are recommended.
  • Screen living and sleeping areas.

Residents in affected areas should reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed:

  • The mosquitoes that spread chikungunya virus predominantly breed in containers or anything that allows water to pool. These include buckets, tarpaulins, tyres, pot plant bases, vases, boats and coconut shells. Roof guttering, rainwater tanks and palm fronds are also potential breeding sites.
  • The best form of control is to remove all mosquito breeding sites around the home.
  • Kill mosquitoes with surface insecticide - spray monthly behind and under furniture, in and under the house.
  • If one person in the community has chikungunya virus infection, infected mosquitoes in or near your home could make other people sick. If someone in your home has chikungunya virus infection, it is even more important that you remove all breeding sites, use surface insecticide sprays and plug-in mozzie zappers, and get everyone to apply personal insect repellent regularly.

How is it diagnosed?

Chikungunya virus infection is diagnosed by blood tests that identify the virus or antibodies to the virus.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for chikungunya virus infection. If you are experiencing symptoms of chikungunya virus infection, see a doctor immediately.

Treatment to relieve symptoms includes:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Bed rest.
  • Taking pain relief such as paracetamol or anti-inflammatories at recommended doses.

What is the public health response?

Doctors and laboratories will notify cases of chikungunya virus infection to the local public health unit. Public health unit staff will contact your doctor to ask permission to interview you, and will investigate the likely source and determine whether others may be at risk of infection.