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Chikungunya: Questions and Answers

What to Know About the Mosquito-Borne Virus That Has Emerged in the Caribbean

What is the treatment?

No special treatment is available. Doctors treat the symptoms the best they can, Adalja says. Typically, fever-reducing medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are given.

How severe is it?

The disease is rarely fatal, according to the World Health Organization, although in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death.

As of July 11, 5,037 cases have been confirmed in the Caribbean with 21 deaths, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

"Most people will get better in about a week," Adalja says, although some will need to be hospitalized. A small number of people will have joint pain that lasts for months, he says.

Newborns exposed during delivery, people 65 and older, and people with medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease are particularly vulnerable to infection, the CDC says.

How do you minimize risk?

Travelers to areas where the virus is circulating can take precautions against mosquito bites. The mosquitoes carrying the virus can bite day or night, indoors or out. The CDC advises:

  • Cover up exposed skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use insect repellent that contains as an active ingredient DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, or IR3535.
  • Consider treating clothing and gear such as boots and tents with the repellent permethrin.
  • Stay and sleep in rooms with screens or air conditioning.
  • Use bed nets if you are sleeping outdoors.

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