Scientists conducting a new study have warned that chikungunya, which happens to be a mosquito borne virus, might result in severe brain infection and at times death in people above the age of 65 years and infants.
During the said study, researchers reviewed a chikungunya outbreak on the Reunion Island along the coast of Madagascar in 2005-06. They found that the rate of encephalitis or brain infection among patients infected by chikungunya virus is higher than the rate of such infection among patients infected by the West Nile virus and similar viruses between the years 1999 and 2007.
According to information provided by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), chikungunya outbreaks have taken place in a number of areas including the Caribbean islands, Africa, and Asia. The researchers, on the other hand, informed that as of Sept. 2015, over 7,000 people in Mexico have been diagnosed with the infection.
Two of the most common symptoms of chikungunya infection are joint pain and fever. Most patients take around a week to recover. However, some people might experience pain in their joints for months, and at times even years.
Patrick Gerardin, one of the authors of the study and a researcher representing the Saint Pierre, Reunion Island-based Central University Hospital, said that as right now there’s no vaccine for preventing the infection and no medication for treating it, people traveling to areas experiencing chikungunya outbreak should have in-depth knowledge about the infection and do the needful for avoiding mosquito bites.
The outbreak on the Reunion Island affected a total of 300,000 people. During the study, the researchers tried to find out whether individuals suffering from neurological symptoms at the onset of the infection remained affected even after three years.
The researchers found that 24 people developed chikungunya virus-induced encephalitis. The cumulative rate of incidence was 8.6 in every 100,000 people. Individuals above the age of 65 years and infants were found to be more likely to develop the brain infection. Among infants, the rate of incidence was 187 in every 100,000 individuals and among elderly people above 65 years, it was 37 in every 100,000 individuals.
The researchers said that both these numbers are significantly higher than rates of encephalitis among Americans belonging to these age groups, irrespective of the causes of the brain infection.