Chikungunya was first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952, according to the World Health Organization.
The name “chikungunya” derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted,” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.
Most people exposed to chikungunya will develop symptoms, although it does not often cause death, according to the state Health Department.
Although the most common symptoms are high fever and severe pain in multiple joints, other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash, according to the state Health Department.
Most people feel better within one week, but the joint pain can persist for months to years in some cases.
Bradley said people who are considering traveling overseas to any Caribbean island, South America, Africa or Southeast Asia should take extra precautions against mosquito bites. However, the prevalence of chikungunya is not a reason to cancel travel plans at this time.
Rather, the Health Department is attempting to raise awareness about chikungunya, not scare people, she said.
For example, it’s important to pack plenty of mosquito repellent, Bradley said. Also, because mosquitoes that carry chikungunya are active during the day, people who will be outdoors while traveling should consider wearing clothing with permethrin insecticide on it.
“If people do experience mosquito bites while they are in the Caribbean or other countries where this disease is circulating, and they experience symptoms, such as fever, joint paint or other symptoms that may be related with chikungunya, they should see their physician and request testing for chikungunya,” Bradley said.