Chikungunya is transmitted to people by being bitten by a mosquito that is infected with the virus. Symptoms include fever, rash and sore joints. The virus is mainly found in Africa and Asia. Travellers to affected areas should avoid mosquito bites to prevent infection.

Last updated: 01 May 2016

What is chikungunya virus?

Chikungunya infection is caused by a virus that is spread by mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever, chills, headache and muscle pain.
  • Joint swelling, stiffness and pain, especially in the mornings.
  • A rash, usually on the trunk or limbs. This usually lasts for 7 - 10 days.
  • A feeling of tiredness or weakness.

Symptoms usually develop about 7-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

The majority of people infected with the chikungunya virus recover completely in a few weeks. Others may experience symptoms such as tiredness for many weeks and joint pain for many months.

How is it spread?

People develop chikunguna virus infection after being bitten by a mosquito that is infected with the virus. The virus is not spread directly from person to person.

Chikungunya is spread by the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue: the Dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). These mosquitoes become infected when they feed on somebody who has chikungunya viruses in the blood during their infection.  Once infected, the virus multiplies inside the mosquito and can infect other people when the mosquito feeds again.

Who is at risk?

As mosquitoes spread the infection to people, anyone bitten is at risk of infection if they are not immune. Chikungunya virus occurs in Africa, south-eastern Asia, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Since 2004 there has been a major epidemic throughout the Indian Ocean region. In recent years, travel to Indonesia, particularly Bali, has been the most common source of chikungunya infection in Australian travellers.

How is it prevented?

There is currently no vaccine against chikungunya.
 
To protect against mosquitoes and reduce the risk of diseases they transmit:
 
  • Cover-up with a loose-fitting long sleeved shirt and long pants when outside
  • Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin
  • Take special care during peak mosquito biting hours. The mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika will bite all through the day
  • Remove potential mosquito breeding sites from around the home and screen windows and doors
  • Take extra precautions when travelling in areas with a higher risk of mosquito-borne diseases.
In addition to the general protection measures above, overseas travellers should also:
 
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors. Nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid insecticide, such as permethrin. Pre-treated bed nets can be purchased before travelling, or nets can be treated after purchase
  • Avoid known areas of high mosquito-borne disease transmission or outbreaks.
For more detailed information on reducing the risk of mosquito bites at home and while travelling see the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard factsheet. This also includes more information on mosquito repellents.
 
See the Staying healthy when travelling overseas factsheet for further information on travel. The Smartraveller website also has health information for specific destinations.
  

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor can take a blood sample and have it tested for antibodies against chikungunya virus. A second blood test may be required to confirm a recent infection.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for chikungunya virus. Your doctor will be able to advise you on treating the symptoms with anti-inflammatory medications.

What is the public health response?

Laboratories are required to notify cases of chikungunya virus on diagnosis. Public health units follow up each case to determine where the person acquired the infection. This information is important to assist identifying if transmission is occurring in areas considered to be low-risk and to prevent transmission.

For further information please call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055