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DOH: Chikungunya not as deadly as dengue but merits urgency

September 28, 2012 8:29am
Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease that affects mainly adults, may not be as deadly as its more notorious cousin dengue, but it merits the same urgency from doctors and patients, a health official said Friday.

Department of Health-National Epidemiology Center head Enrique Tayag said that since both diseases share similar symptoms, a patient who suffers from symptoms such as fever and rashes should "assume" he or she has dengue, and seek medical help.

"'Pag may fever and rash dengue muna (ang isipin) kasi nakamamatay ang dengue. Hindi pwedeng balewalain yan at 'di pwedeng sabihing chikungunya lang 'yan kasi mas marami 'di hamak ang dengue lalo na may pag-ulan pa rin," Tayag said in an interview on dzBB radio.

On Thursday, Tayag warned of chikungunya, a dengue-like disease spread through mosquitoes that causes fever and skin rash similar to dengue.

Chikungunya’s symptoms include acute but long-term arthritis in several joints, and can affect both poor and rich communities.

But he noted it mostly affects adults, unlike dengue in which children are mostly affected.

Tayag said  chikungunya had been around in the Philippines in the 1990s, but he said they noted an increase of cases in the last two years.

Many of the cases are in Metro Manila, Laguna, Pangasinan, and parts of Mindanao, he said.

"Ito'y dala rin ng parehong lamok na nagdadala ng dengue virus so ang lamok kung di dengue, chikungunya," he said.

But he said dengue is the deadlier disease as no deaths due to chikungunya have so far been recorded.

The World Health Organization’s March 2008 fact sheet said chikungunya is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rashes, it said.

“The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common. There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms,” it said.

It added the proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.

The WHO said the disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent though it has recently spread to Europe and the Americas.

Signs and symptoms include an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain.

“The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually ends within a few days or weeks. Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs,” it said.

After the bite of an infected mosquito, illness occurs usually between four and eight days but can range from two to 12 days.

“There are no specific drugs to cure the disease. Treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including the joint pain. There is no commercial chikungunya vaccine,” the WHO said. — LBG, GMA News
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