Chikungunya: Symptoms and Treatment !

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1. ‘Chikungunya’ disease is painful; but recovery from it is certain !

A few years ago, the disease ‘Chikungunya’ was rampant in Maharashtra. ‘Chikungunya’ usually happens to all members in the house at the same time. As everyone gets sick at the same time, no one is able help other members in the house. The joint pains caused in this disease are severe and long-lasting and hence there is no immediate relief from the disease. Overall, the nature of this disease is so distressing that even if we notice a patient affected by it, we get scared.

The word ‘Chikungunya’ is originally derived from Swahili language. Earlier, this disease used to affect monkeys. It is transmitted by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. A type of virus referred to as ‘arboviruse’ enters the human body through its bite. Once it enters the body, the virus multiplies and Chikungunya then gets detected only after 5 to 8 days.


2. Symptoms of ‘Chikungunya’

2a. Fever

Sometimes low grade (99 to 101 ‘F’) and at times high grade (101 to 103 ‘F’) fever occurs. Fever usually lasts for 2-3 days; but after few days it can come again.

2b. Chills

Severe chills are followed by fever. It does not diminish even if covered with blankets.

2c. Headache

The head becomes heavy and aches.

2d. Nausea or vomitting

These symptoms are observed in few of the patients.

2e. Joint pain

This symptom is very severe. Multiple joints get swollen and pain at the same time. Some patients say that the pain in the joints is so severe that it feels as if a scorpion has bitten them. It becomes impossible for the patient to even move. The patient is unable to perform any task by himself. Even the finger joints are rendered immobile. These pains subside gradually. It takes 4 months to 2 years for the pain to heal. In some patients, cold weather, rain and change in diet causes the pain to flare up again and again. In few patients, the joint pain accompanies with them like an enemy.

2f. Rashes

Fine rashes appear anywhere on the entire skin. Symptoms include itching or burning. After 3 to 4 days, the skin at the site of the rashes starts to peel off.

2g. Fatigue

Weakness lasts for at least a week. Fatal weakness is another symptom of the disease.

In some patients, all these symptoms appear in acute form, while in others, only certain symptoms appear. In some people, the symptoms are relatively mild. However, fever and joint pain occur in all patients.

This is the description of Chikungunya as given in the book. Its symptoms are so clear and severe that it is easy to diagnose the disease in its early stages.

In the blood test within RTPCR test, RNA (Ribonucleic acid – a type of acid found in every cell in the human body) of Chikungunya virus can be detected; however the virus can be detected in the blood only on the 7th day post infection.


3. Remedy

Even if analgesics and medicines to reduce fever are taken, there is no certainty as to how long they would need to be continued. Sometimes the fever returns after a week or a month. Joint pain and stiffness sometimes persist for 2 years. From the point of view of Ayurveda, in this type of fever there is a loss of appetite and digestion, dysfunction of vata (Wind) component, dysfunction of rasavahasrotasa (rasadhatu [Circulatory fluid component] is the first component created from the food intake and is needed for nutrition of our body. The channels which enable circulation of this rasadhatu are rasavahastrotasa), deterioration in blood, bones and joints. As described in the scriptures, the conditions in this disease are like that of ‘Amwat’ (A disease in which vitiation of Vata dosha and accumulation of Ama take place in joints, which simulate rheumatoid arthritis), however in case of Chikungunya this condition develops at a faster pace. To fight against this disease, one must think of two methods.

3a. Prevention

The first principle to adopt is of prevention! Since Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitoes, one must take care to avoid creating an environment conducive to the growth of mosquitoes in one’s area. In this regard, the municipal corporations and panchayats provide information from time to time and carry out fogging and spraying of pesticides regularly. Yet if there is an infestation of mosquitoes, it is wise to install nets on the windows of the house and use mosquito nets at night. In case one falls ill, as an immediate step one should visit a nearby doctor and get medicines for fever and joint pain. If it is not possible to go to the doctor and there is no one else to help, take 4 teaspoons each of ‘Mahasudarshan’ decoction and ‘Dashmularishta’ as a preliminary treatment. Add some water to it. One should take this treatment until one regains the physical strength to visit the doctor.

3b. Eat only as much as one feels hungry, and only consume light food. If one does not feel hungry, one should fast or only eat a light meal like liquid part of the boiled roasted rice or green gram soup or kadhan. One can use hot water bag 3 times a day or sand wrapped in a cloth and heated on a pan to soothe aches and discomfort.

3c. Drink medicine (medicated water) created by mixing ingredients such as nut grass, dry ginger, sandalwood, vetiver, Indian Sarsaparilla, Indian Fumitory in water and boiling it.

3d. Have a light diet of flakes, lentil kadhan, roasted rice khichdi and fresh millet bread. Use some pepper to taste.

3e. Wear warm clothing.

3f. As far as possible, do not apply any medicine to the joints as there is a possibility of spreading rashes.

3g. Take complete rest avoiding bath, daytime sleep, fan (i.e., this disease is a forced rest.)

3h. Do not stay awake at night.


4. Opportunity to lead a pain-free life post eradication
of the ill-effects of Chikungunya with the help of Ayurveda

Long-term treatment of this disease continues even after the fever and rashes subside. Especially for the joint pain the treatment needs to be taken. In such situation too Ayurveda is helpful. Some Chikungunya patients may initially have to be given some panchakarma treatments like Virechan or Basti. These treatments must be taken under the supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions precisely while undertaking these treatments. Even after the fever goes away, one has to take medicines for a long time. These medications vary from patient to patient; therefore, don’t self-medicate. Medicines given or prescribed to one member of the household should not be followed by another. One must follow the diet restrictions as per the doctor’s advice. Damage to the joints caused by the disease can be cured by these remedies only. With these remedies a patient gets an opportunity to lead a pain-free life.

Although Chikungunya is a terrible disease, it is not a life-threatening one. It gets cured, and joint pain can also be cured. It is only necessary to approach the doctor at the right time and undertake treatment under the doctor’s advice for a sufficient period.

– Dr. Suchitra Kulkarni (Courtesy : ‘Weekly Vivek’ )

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