Chikungunya fever: A re-emerging viral infection
Chikungunya (CHIK) fever is a re-emerging viral disease characterized by abrupt onset of fever with severe arthralgia followed by constitutional symptoms and rash lasting for 1-7 days. The disease is almost self-limiting and rarely fatal. Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a RNA virus belonging to family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus. Molecular characterization has demonstrated two distinct lineages of strains which cause epidemics in Africa and Asia. These geographical genotypes exhibit differences in the transmission cycles. In contrast to Africa where sylvatic cycle is maintained between monkeys and wild mosquitoes, in Asia the cycle continues between humans and the Aedes aegypti mosquito. CHIKV is known to cause epidemics after a period of quiescence. The first recorded epidemic occurred in Tanzania in 1952-1953. In Asia, CHIK activity was documented since its isolation in Bangkok, Thailand in 1958. Virus transmission continued till 1964. After hiatus, the virus activity re-appeared in the mid-1970s and declined by 1976. In India, well-documented outbreaks occurred in 1963 and 1964 in Kolkata and southern India, respectively. Thereafter, a small outbreak of CHIK was reported from Sholapur district, Maharashtra in 1973. CHIKV emerged in the islands of South West Indian Ocean viz. French island of La Reunion, Mayotee, Mauritius and Seychelles which are reporting the outbreak since February, 2005. After quiescence of about three decades, CHIKV re-emerged in India in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu since December, 2005. Cases have also been reported from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kerala. The outbreak is still continuing. National Institute of Communicable Diseases has conducted epidemiological, entomological and laboratory investigations for confirmation of the outbreak. These have been discussed in detail along with the major challenges that the country faced during the current outbreak.
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