Are you living under a constant fear of getting bitten by mosquitoes this season, that are ever so prevalent in the environment, due to the degrading civic sense among us citizens and the apathetic authorities? Don’t panic! Every case doesn’t need to be hospitalised or treated with very strong medication. Homoeopathy can Help!
With monsoon, there has been an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses including Dengue and Chikungunya. Delhi in particular is witnessing an unprecedented rise in the number of Chikungunya cases this year. Though most patients recover and serious complications are uncommon, the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Generally one would feel better within a week but in some cases the joint pains may persist for weeks or even months together.
People at risk for a more severe illness include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults – 65 or above and people with medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.
Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Origin: The first outbreak of the disease was seen in the year 1952, in the Makonde plateau, along the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. The name “chikungunya” comes from Kimakonde dialect which means ‘to become contorted or bend’, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers because of severe joint pains – arthralgia.
The disease occurs predominantly in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
It is important to recognize the early signs so treatment can be started appropriately. Here are a few facts that you need to know about this disease –
1. What causes this illness?
Chikungunya is a viral infection caused by an alphavirus and is transmitted to humans by the bite of a ‘virus-carrying‘ Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. These mosquitoes bite humans aggressively during the day, breed in stagnant water and are the same mosquitos that transmit Dengue and Yellow Fever.
Less common modes of transmission include –
- Vertical transmission from mother to child during pregnancy or at birth.
- Via infected blood products in blood/plasma transfusion.
- Through organ donation (theoretically possible during times of outbreak, though no cases have yet been documented).
The infection usually lasts for 7 to 10 days.
2. What one needs to know about its signs/symptoms?
Most people bitten by the infected mosquito will get the infection. The symptoms usually start 3-7 days after the bite and the most common symptoms include:
- Sudden, abrupt onset of high-grade fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) that can last for 3-4 days.
- Severe joint pains: Peripheral joints of hands, wrists and ankles are most frequently affected. Joint pains can be very severe and disabling, usually lasting for a few days beginning after the fever starts. One can also see swelling in the joints and experience morning stiffness. Sometimes pain extends to some of the larger joints like the back, shoulder, elbows or knees as well. These joint pains may last for weeks to months causing severe disability. In a few cases chronic joint pains can last for years after Chikungunya infection.
- Rash: More than 50% of the cases get a rash typically seen on the face, arms, legs and back. It can be itchy and usually begins with the fever and can last for a week.
- Insomnia or sleeplessness
- Myalgia or muscle aches
- Digestive symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea may precipitate.
- Severe weakness and fatigue
Chikungunya fever is somewhat similar to the fever of dengue. What differentiates it from the latter is the potentially debilitating bilateral polyarthralgia (multiple joint pains) and in some cases – arthritis.
3. What screening tests or investigations need to be done to confirm/rule out Chikungunya?
The symptoms of chikungunya are similar to those of dengue and Zika; diseases spread by the same mosquito that transmit chikungunya. Consult your Physician if you develop the symptoms and have travelled to or spent time in an area in which chikungunya is present within the last twelve days (i.e. the potential incubation period). Chikungunya can be diagnosed by a simple blood test.
- RT-PCR (Real-Time polymerase chain reaction) is a virological test used for early detection of viral RNA – CHIKV in the blood – as early as in the first 5 days (stage of viraemia) of the fever. Report is available within a day. However a negative report does not exclude infection, since CHIKV may get undetected if the test is done after a relatively brief window of viremia (≤8 days after symptom onset)
- Serological test: ELISA blood test (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) checks anti-chikungunya antibodies (IgM and IgG) in acute or convalescent blood samples. IgM levels though highest during week 3-5, can be detected in the blood as early as 4-5 days after the infection has set in and may persist for about two months. High IgG levels suggest a past infection. Report is available the same day.
4. What are the available treatments?
There is no specific vaccine or antiviral medicines to prevent/treat chikungunya virus. So the rule is to treat the symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids to maintain hydration.
- Don’t contribute to the transmission cycle: If you get infected, protect yourself from further mosquito bites in the first week of your illness. During the first week, chikungunya virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
- Conventional Medicines: It’s safer to take analgesics and antipyretics such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) to reduce fever and pain. The symptoms are often difficult to differentiate from Dengue, hence it is important to not take any NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) like aspirin, diclofenac and ibuprofen till Dengue is ruled out as these medicines can cause platelets to fall, increasing risk of bleeding in a Dengue infection.
5. Is Homoeopathy effective in treating Chikungunya?
Homoeopathy is undoubtedly an effective option to tackle all kind of viral fevers including the monsoon maladies like Chikungunya and Dengue, as it offers a gentler and a faster cure. There are a number of medicines (viz. Arsenic Album, Rhus Tox, Bryonia, Eupatorium Perf, Pyrogenium, Gelsemium, Merc Sol, Ipecac, Arnica, Belladonna, etc) that not only help bring down the acute fever, they cut it short too.
Also, they come with an added advantage of no-side-effects or a drop in your platelet counts causing bleeding!
The terrible joint pains one experiences in Chikungunya, which may get disabling for weeks or months even after the recovery from fever, are very effectively controlled with homeopathic medicines like Eupatorium Perf and Bryonia Alba if given in lower doses. Polyporus pinicola is also one of the specific medicines for these lingering pain in joints. In higher doses it acts as a preventive.
Wonderful medicines like Phosphoric acid, Cinchona or Arsenicum can take good care of weakness and fatigue making you up and about in just a couple of days.
Euphrasia very well takes care of the conjunctivitis or any other eye symptoms if you develop them.
I have personally used Eupatorium Perf, Bryonia Alba and Arsenic Album in 30 potencies as prophylactics for the disease this season in families where at least one member is suffering from the malady. So far it has helped the family in not contacting the illness.
6. Dos and Don’ts – How can it be prevented?
Prevention is the best cure. Here are some preventive measures you can take to avoid the infection –
- Keep your surroundings clean and dispose-off waste regularly. Aedes mosquitoes which transmit both dengue and chikungunya breed in clean stagnant water. They use indoor sites likes flower vases and water storage vessels and outdoor areas like coconut husks, water in pots, coolers, old tyres, broken bottles etc for breeding. Don’t let water stagnate anywhere in or near your home/workplace.
- The mosquito is active in the daytime, usually more in the early mornings and late evenings so it is important to wear long-sleeved clothes or use mosquito coils or repellents that contain DEET to prevent mosquito bites. For babies and children who nap during the day, using mosquito nets can also help limit mosquito bites.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, so avoid wearing dark-colored clothes.
- Don’t wear tight clothes for mosquitoes find it easier to bite through tight-fitting garments.
Note :: Please do not self-medicate. Consult your physician if you have high fever, joint pains or any other signs that point towards the infection.