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Chikungunya Bites Delhi: 5 Must-Know Facts About This Outbreak

Chikungunya is merciless. One moment you’re fine and suddenly there’s 104-degrees fever and crippling joint pain.

Updated
Health News
4 min read
If you are in the Capital, chances are you know someone who is infected with this crippling disease, the symptoms of which are pretty similar to dengue. Picture used for representational purposes. (Photo: iStock)

A small bite of the aedes aegypti mosquito has shark-sized outcomes.

There are nearly 432 official cases of chikungunya, along with roughly 400 cases of dengue, in the national capital.

At first, 31- year-old Pankaj experienced only a nagging pain in his hands and legs. He dismissed it thinking it’s the result of a longer-than-usual gym session. Overnight his condition slipped. When he went to the doctor, it felt like a massive flu attack combined with arthritis; he was shivering, his entire body covered in orange bumps, and was totally wiped out.

Doctors diagnosed him with chikungunya.

Three-weeks later he has recovered, but his father and house help are now under the scanner.

Talk to any doctor in the capital and they say the official statistic (432 at the time of publication) doesn’t paint the right picture. Yet the civic authorities in Delhi maintain there is just “a spike in the infection cases” and “no outbreak”.

Where does this leave you? Scroll below to get a 360-degree perspective on the disease caused by the ‘cockroach of mosquitoes’:

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1. The Chikungunya Fever Is Different From Typhoid and Viral

Patients say, ‘joint pain’ doesn’t describe the depleting intensity of pain which has caused people to get wheeled into hospitals. Photo used for representational purposes only. (Photo: iStock)
Patients say, ‘joint pain’ doesn’t describe the depleting intensity of pain which has caused people to get wheeled into hospitals. Photo used for representational purposes only. (Photo: iStock)

Chikungunya strikes without a warning. People who have recovered from it report a sudden onslaught of high-grade fever, almost 103 to 105 degrees.

On the other hand, typhoid is a more sing-song kind of a fever; it rises and falls with the same frequency, at the same time everyday. Viral will peak every five to six hours, is generally accompanied by other flu-like symptoms (not always) but chikungunya is merciless. One minute you are okay, the next you’re gripped with high-fever and before you know there’s this bone-breaking, crippling joint pain.
My body was slightly sore when I went to bed. The next morning I was shivering with 104-fever and had the worst kind of head, leg and hip pain. I’ve never experienced something like that in my life. It almost felt like I’ve aged and arthritis is gripping my whole body. Even now, three-weeks later, my ankles hurt in the morning, I limp for sometime, and then it becomes manageable. 
Pankaj, Recovered from Chinkungunya

2. The First 48 Hours Are Miserable

The symptoms are different for most people but generally the joint-racking pain lasts for the first few days. (Photo: iStockphoto)
The symptoms are different for most people but generally the joint-racking pain lasts for the first few days. (Photo: iStockphoto)

You will NOT be given painkillers until dengue, which has similar symptoms, has been ruled out.

The first 48 hours are miserable; 2% patients have long-lasting pain for more than six months.

Lifting your arms to pick your cellphone, getting up to pee all seem like Herculean tasks.

This viral infection gives arthritis-type of joint pain. We give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers, once we confirm the disease. But these can’t be given for long because they can impact the kidneys. We usually manage the condition with disease modifying drugs which alter your immune system’s response to the disease.  
Dr Hemant Thacker, Physician, Bhatia Hospital

3. Why Does Your Doc Say You Are Positive When Chikungunya Blood Tests Are Negative ?

 Do not self medicate in any circumstance. Photo used for representational purposes only. (Photo: iStock)
Do not self medicate in any circumstance. Photo used for representational purposes only. (Photo: iStock)

Bottom line - Go to a reputed hospital and trust your doctor when he judges your symptoms and gives a diagnosis. Do not self medicate in any circumstance.

Allow me to clear the confusion.

In the initial stages, symptoms of many viral diseases look similar but as the disease progresses, your doctor can differentiate between them symptomatically.

The chikungunya test costs around Rs 3,500 to 4,500 depending on which lab you go to, but the accuracy of the results depends upon the timing of the test.

The virus load in your body increases and then decreases, and your immune system responds to the disease with antibodies. So, if a blood test is done early, (after 8 to 10 days from the day the fever sets in), the test is likely to be NEGATIVE 60 to 70 percent, according to experts. Trouble is, no doctor or patient waits, or should wait to do a blood test five days after the fever has died - it is only then that 90 percent of the tests are POSITIVE. 
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4. There Is No Treatment or Cure - Should You Panic?



Sure, chikungunya is on a feverish high in Delhi, it has no cure but the disease is mostly not fatal like dengue. (Photo: iStock)
Sure, chikungunya is on a feverish high in Delhi, it has no cure but the disease is mostly not fatal like dengue. (Photo: iStock)

Sure, chikungunya is on a feverish high in Delhi, it has no cure, but the disease is mostly not fatal like dengue.

No cure does not mean there are no medicines to manage your condition. There is no specific treatment, but we have very good drugs which cut down on inflammation, control fever, which are the main problem of this disease. 
Dr Hemant Thacker, Physician, Bhatia Hospital

The disease comes in stages, once the fever dies in four to five days, the nausea, ulcers, sensitive skin, rashes accompany the joint pain.

5. Bright Side - You Can’t Be Re-Infected Unlike Dengue

You can get dengue four times and the severity of the illness increases with each subsequent infection, but chikungunya is gold in that aspect. You get it once like your childhood bout of chickenpox and it’s out of your way for good.

Take plenty of rest, have fluids if there’s appetite and once you’re better, don’t forget to dance to one of the chikungunya playlists on YouTube. Promise these African songs are so funny you’ll instantly crack up at your ordeal!

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