First identified in an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952, chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted between humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Chikungunya’s name is derived from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning ‘to become contorted’, as the virus causes debilitating joint pain that induces a stooped appearance. The World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia method has been shown to work in protecting against multiple mosquito-borne diseases, including chikungunya.
Chikungunya is most prevalent in Asia, Africa and India. However in 2015, there was a large outbreak across the Americas, with over 1,379,788 suspected cases of chikungunya recorded in the Caribbean Islands, Latin America, and the United States of America. More than 190 deaths were also attributed to this disease during the same period.
Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the same way as Zika and dengue. Causing severe fever and debilitating joint pain, the disease shares some clinical signs with Zika and dengue, sometimes leading to misdiagnosis in areas where these diseases are prevalent.
There is no specific antiviral drug treatment or vaccine for chikungunya and symptoms can last from months to years. Prevention and control relies heavily on reducing the number of natural and artificial stagnant water habitats that support mosquito breeding, promoting insecticides, protective clothing and repellents.
The World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia method works in conjunction with existing preventative measures, helping to block the transmission of chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and dengue.