KARACHI - Chikungunya is rarely fatal, as death rate in people affected by this disease is less than one per cent, says a health expert.

Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. This virus is in Pakistan, but with low level activity. Symptoms are generally self-limiting and last for two or three days. There is a strong connection between the disease and poverty. People must protect themselves against mosquitoes. Elderly people and newborns are at higher risk, the expert says.

Dr Bushra Jamil, professor and section head, Adult Infectious Diseases, AKUH, made these remarks at a public awareness seminar titled “The Recent Outbreak of Chikungunya in Pakistan”, which was held at the seminar room of Dr Panjwani Centre for PCMD, ICCBS, University of Karachi on Friday.

Prof Bushra Jamil said that Chikungunya had affected around 60 countries in the world so far. She said the disease was present in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In 2005 and 2006, India faced significant outbreak of Chikungunya. In 2007, dozens of Chikungunya cases were reported in Pakistan, she said. Talking about the symptoms, she said that they were generally self-limiting and lasted for two or three days. They appear four to seven days after a person is bitten by the infected mosquito. These symptoms include high fever, joint pain (in lower back, ankle, knees, wrists or phalanges), joint swelling, rashes, headache, muscle pain, nausea and fatigue, she said.

There are some health complications linked to this disease. They include eye problems (uveitis and retinitis), heart attack, hepatitis, nephritis (kidney problems), skin issues and bleeding, she said, adding that socio economic burden was also associated with this kind of disease which affected productivity of the patients even after elimination of the virus.

There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya however vaccines are not used as preventive measure as they are not available at commercial scale, she said and added that prevention and control of disease relied seriously on reducing the number of natural and artificial water-filled container habitats that supported breeding of mosquitoes. It is noticed that there is a strong association between both Ae. aegypti and Ae. Albopictus and large outbreaks of chikungunya, she maintained.

At the end, she urged people to take all preventive measures against the disease and try to keep their areas clean.