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article imageChikungunya virus can lead to brain infection

By Tim Sandle     Dec 5, 2015 in Health
The virus chikungunya, transmitted by mosquitoes, could lead to a dangerous brain infection. Those at greatest risk are infants and those aged over 65. This is based on a new study into past incidences.
Chikungunya fever is a disease transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes. The virus can cause fever, headaches, and joint pain. The word for the virus “Chikungunya” derives comes from the Makonde people of Tanzania. The name translates as: "that which bends up." The extent that the virus spreads is dependent upon the viral strain, mosquito genotype, and ambient temperature.
Although the disease is most commonly associated with tropical climates, last year Digital Journal reported about the first acquired case of chikungunya virus in the U.S. Here, a Florida man, who had not undertaken in any recent international travel, was diagnosed with the painful infection.
On top of a growing spread of the disease, comes a new health risk: the possibility of brain disease arising from an infection with the virus. This is based on a review of a major incident. The study looked at a chikungunya outbreak on Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar in 2005-2006. This incident affected some 300,000 people, with a death rate of 17 percent.
The analysis showed the virus presents the risk of encephalitis. Whereas most people recover from the established pathology of fever and joint pain, if the virus reaches the brain then the risk becomes greater. The risks of this happening are small, although the effects are serious. Of the 300,000 infections, 24 people developed brain diseases.
Discussing the observations in a research brief, Dr. Patrick Gérardin, from the Central University Hospital in Saint Pierre, Reunion Island, noted: “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.”
The research is published in the journal Neurology, in a paper titled “Chikungunya virus-associated encephalitis: A cohort study on La Reunion Island, 2005-2009.”
More about Chikungunya, Virus, brain disease, Infection, Mosquito
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