Chikungunya Virus Disease: An Emerging Challenge for the Rheumatologist


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Abstract

Chikungunya is caused by an alphavirus that is transmitted to humans via the Aedes species mosquito. Chikungunya is endemic to tropical Africa and South and Southeast Asia, but over the past decade, the geographic distribution of the virus has been expanding rapidly. The disease is characterized by fever and severe polyarthritis, and although symptoms typically resolve within 7 to 10 days, some patients experience persistent arthritis and arthralgias for months to years.In December 2013, the first local transmission of chikungunya virus in the Americas was identified in the Caribbean Island of Saint Martin. Since then, the number of afflicted individuals has spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America, as well as into South America. The United States reported 2788 chikungunya virus disease cases among travelers returning from affected areas in 2014. In addition, 11 locally acquired cases were reported in Florida. Further spread and establishment of the disease in the Americas are likely considering the high levels of viremia in infected individuals, widespread distribution of effective vectors, lack of immunity among people living in the Americas, and the popularity of international travel.Considering the prominent rheumatic manifestations of chikungunya, rheumatologists are likely to encounter patients with the disease in their practice. We recommend that rheumatologists consider chikungunya in their differential diagnosis when evaluating patients presenting with fever and joint pain following travel to a chikungunya endemic area. Early diagnosis would ensure timely management and reduction of polypharmacy and its associated complications. In this article, we briefly describe the epidemiology of chikungunya, the clinical features, laboratory testing, prevention, and treatment of disease.

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