Chikungunya outbreak in Delhi: What you need to know, why it is so dangerous for the elderly!

Chikungunya is a viral illness, primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, predominantly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus - two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue. 

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Chikungunya cases are rising rapidly this season in the national capital despite the health authorities' efforts to intensify measures to control the rising number of vector-borne diseases.

On Thursday, September 8, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said it has tested over 400 new samples for chikungunya in the last two weeks, taking the vector borne cases in the hospital alone to nearly 900.


"The samples testing for Chikungunya is rising. Till now some 885 samples have tested positive for dengue and out of which over 400 are new one tested positive in the last two weeks," Lalit Dar of Department of Microbiology at AIIMS, was quoted as saying.

Till September 3, the total number of Chikungunya is only 560, as per the civic bodies.

Even as several hospitals are reporting increasing cases of vector-borne diseases, which also include dengue and malaria, doctors said that the number could rise further as the season peaks in September.

According to the civic bodies, Delhi has recorded a total of 284 new Dengue cases with the total figure now reaching 771.


So far, no death has occured due to chikungunya in Delhi this season, however, the total number of fatalities in the national capital due to dengue stands at eight. The city also witnessed its first malaria death in five years after a 30-year-old man from east Delhi succumbed to the mosquito-borne disease at Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday evening.

Chikungunya – What is it? Causes, symptoms and complications

Chikungunya is a viral illness, primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, predominantly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus - two species which can also transmit other mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue.

Chikungunya symptoms are similar to those of dengue, which include high-grade fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, joint swelling, rashes, fatigue, nausea, vomiting,loss of taste, mouth ulcers.

Symptoms may last for weeks or months or even longer. In some cases, joint pain may persist for years. Although chikungunya disease does not often result in death, the symptoms can be severe and disabling.

Chikungunya complications are also similar to those of dengue. According to WHO, occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. While serious complications are not common, the disease can contribute to the cause of death in older people.


Chikungunya is particularly dangerous for older people because their immune system is alreay weak due to natural ageing process. Hence, this can lead to serious other health complications such as dementia and other cerebral problems, kidney disorders and paralysis.

Because symptoms in infected individuals are often mild, the infection may go unrecognised. And only a blood test can definitively diagnose chikungunya.

See a doctor if you develop symptoms above and think that you have chikungunya, especially if you have recently travelled to an area where there's an outbreak. Doing this will help you avoid further complications. Although chikungunya is very rarely fatal, the symptoms are distressing and can be long-lived.

Who's at risk for more severe complications?

  • Newborns infected around the time of birth
  • Older adults (≥65 years)
  • People with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.

What to do if you have chikungunya?

In case, you've contracted chikungunya, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible, especially during the first week of illness to prevent further spread of the virus. This is because during the first week of infection, the virus can be found in the blood of the infected person, which will be then transmitted to other people through mosquito bites.


Since there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus, treatment basically focuses on relieving the symptoms using anti-pyretics, optimal analgesics and fluids. There is no commercial chikungunya vaccine.

Besides, patients should take sufficient rest, drink plenty of water and other fluids, eat a healthy diet consisting of lots of fruits and vegetables.

However, aspirin is not recommended due to the increased risk of bleeding. Despite anti-inflammatory effects, corticosteroids are not recommended during the acute phase of disease, as they may cause immunosuppression and worsen infection.

But, the good thin gis that there are some home remedies that can be used to treat or relieve the symptoms of chikungunya. Click here to read our home remedy tips for chikungunya.

Prevention tips

  • The best method to prevent chikungunya is avoiding contact with mosquitoes. Remember, mosquitoes that spread the chikungunya virus bite mostly during the daytime. Here are some preventive steps you can take-
  • Using insect safe and effective moquito repellents.
  • Wearing clothing that covers the whole body.
  • Using air conditioning or window/door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Using mosquito coils and insecticide vaporizers.
  • Staying indoors as much as possible, especially during early morning and late afternoon
  • Sleeping under a mosquito net
  • Avoiding travelling to areas experiencing chikungunya outbreaks

History of chikungunya

Chikungunya fever was first detected in 1952 on the Makonde Plateau, along the border between Mozambique and Tanganyika (the mainland part of modern-day Tanzania). The word 'chikungunya' is believed to have been derived from a description in the Makonde language, meaning "that which bends up" – a reference to the contorted posture of people affected with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with this disease.

As per Wikipedia, the first recorded outbreak of chikungunya may have been in 1779, which is in agreement with the molecular genetics evidence that suggests it evolved around the year 1700.

Chikungunya was initially considered a tropical disease because it had only been witnessed in Africa, Asia and the India subcontinent. However, since 2007, outbreaks have occured Europe and the Americas.