Accessibility links

Breaking News

Experts Watch for Spread of Chikungunya, a Highly Painful Virus

The disease carried by mosquitoes has been found in Africa and Asia for many years, but appeared in Italy in 2007. People rarely die from it, but the muscle and joint pain can last for weeks or months. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Correction attached

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

People get chikungunya fever when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the disease. For many years, the disease has been found in countries in Africa and Asia. The symptoms are increased body temperature, pain in muscles and joints and stomach sickness.

The disease is not usually deadly. But the muscle and joint pain can last for weeks or months. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease and no special drug to treat it. Doctors advise taking medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen.

The name chikungunya means "that which bends up" in the Swahili language. People infected with the virus walk in a bent-over position because of the severe pain in the joints.

Malaysia reported more than one thousand one hundred cases of chikungunya so far this year. In Indonesia, about two hundred people in central Java became sick from the virus last month. And about one thousand people near Yeshwanthpur in India also showed signs of the disease in March.

But the disease also appeared in a cooler climate in two thousand seven, causing concern about its spread. Italy reported about two hundred cases during warm weather. The medical journal Eurosurveillance Weekly said it was the first time mosquitoes carried the virus inside Europe.

Two kinds of mosquitoes carry chikungunya fever. One is called Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito. It has been reported in many European countries including France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. It also lives in the southern United States. The other mosquito that can carry chikungunya, Aedes aegypti, also is present in the United States.

Ann Powers is an expert on viruses. She works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colorado. She said the disease spread is not directly connected to climate change. But she also said C.D.C. scientists are preparing for possible cases of chikungunya in the United States.

People around the world can prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes by removing standing water from their property. They should try to keep mosquitoes out of their homes. And they should wear clothing that covers the arms and legs when they are outside. DEET and other chemicals that work against insects can keep mosquitoes from biting.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.


Correction: As a comment below points out, this report incorrectly describes "chikungunya" as a Swahili word. says it "almost certainly derives from the Makonde language."