Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans through the bites of mosquitoes infected with the chikungunya virus. It was first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952 and has now been identified in nearly 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and, most recently, the Americas. Symptoms usually begin 4 to 8 days after a mosquito bite but can appear anywhere from 2 to 12 days.

The most common symptom is an abrupt onset of fever, often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash. Severe joint pain usually lasts a few days but can persist for months or even years. Serious complications are uncommon, but atypical severe cases can cause long-term symptoms and even death, especially in older people.

There is no vaccine or antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

Fact sheet

About chikungunya

  • The word comes from the African Makonde language and means "bent over in pain." 
  • It is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and Aedes albopictus mosquito. 
  • Chikungunya is not transmitted from one person to another. The virus needs a vector—a means of transportation: mosquitoes.
  • You can only have chikungunya once, then develop antibodies that will protect people. According to the evidence available so far, there would be immunity for life.
  • There are native cases and imported cases of chikungunya.
  • The treatment is symptomatic and in 98% of outpatient cases. Bed rest should be kept, preferably using mosquito netting. For pain and fever it is recommended to take Acetaminophen every 6 hours, it is necessary to control the fever. Sick adults need to drink between 2 and 3 liters of liquids per day (water, coconut water, soups, fruit juices, oral rehydration serum), children should do it continuously.
  • There is currently no vaccine or specific drug against the virus.
  • Cases of death from chikungunya are very rare and are almost always related to other existing health problems.
  • Mothers who have chikungunya during pregnancy do not transmit the virus to their babies. However, there are documented cases of mother-to-child transmission when the mother has fever in the days immediately prior to delivery or during delivery.

About Aedes aegypti

mosquito icon

Aedes aegypti is the vector that presents the greatest risk of arbovirus transmission in the Americas and is present in almost all countries of the hemisphere (except Canada and continental Chile). It is a domestic mosquito (that lives in and near houses) that reproduces in any artificial or natural container that contains water.

Mosquito eggs

The mosquito can complete its life cycle, from the egg to the adult, in 7-10 days; adult mosquitoes usually live 4 to 6 weeks. The female Aedes aegypti is responsible for the transmission of diseases because she needs human blood for the development of her eggs and for her metabolism. The male does not feed on blood.

Rising sun

The mosquito is most active early in the morning and at dusk, so these are the periods of greatest risk of bites. However, females, who need to continue feeding, will seek a source of blood at other times. The female Aedes aegypti feeds every 3-4 days; however, if they cannot draw enough blood, they continue feeding each moment they can.

tire icon

Aedes aegypti prefers to lay its eggs in artificial containers that contain water (drums, barrels and tires, mainly) in and around homes, schools and workplaces. Aedes aegypti eggs can withstand dry environmental conditions for more than a year: in fact, this is one of the most important strategies that the species uses to survive and spread.

To eliminate mosquitoes, the following actions are recommended: avoid collecting water in open-air containers (pots, bottles or other containers that can collect water) so that they do not become breeding sites for mosquitoes; adequately cover water tanks and reservoirs to keep mosquitoes away; avoid accumulating garbage, throwing garbage in closed plastic bags.

PAHO Response
  • PAHO/WHO is actively working with the countries of the Americas so that they can develop or maintain the capacity to detect and confirm cases of Zika, so that they know how to care for people affected by this disease, and so that they can implement effective strategies to reduce the presence of the mosquito and minimize the possibility of an outbreak. Support is provided as part of the implementation of the Integrated Management Strategy (IMS).
  • PAHO/WHO recommends that countries with the transmitting mosquito establish and maintain the capacity to detect and confirm cases, manage patients, and implement an effective public communication strategy to reduce the presence of the mosquito. We also recommend that countries strengthen their laboratory capacity to recognize and confirm the virus in a timely fashion.
  • PAHO/WHO has been working for some time with countries of the Region in preparedness and response to the eventual introduction of this virus, for example, with the preparation in 2012 of Guidelines for preparedness and response for chikungunya virus. We help countries that have the virus to: strengthen their laboratory capacities (so that they can detect the virus reliably and in time); train health workers to identify and manage cases of chikungunya; and prepare and organize health services for patients. PAHO/WHO also collaborates in the improvement of case monitoring, provides advice on risk communication, and helps countries control the vector.
  • We are also working on the training of laboratory and clinical staff in countries that still do not have the virus, so that they can detect it and manage any cases that may appear.