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The disease Chikungunya, which first emerged in Bandung, West Java in December 2002, causes symptoms similar to those of dengue fever. The pathogen involved is a flavivirus transmitted by bites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It is most common during the Indonesian rainy season, particularly in regions with high rainfall levels.

There is no specific cure for chikungunya and no vaccine. The only way to prevent chikungunya is to prevent mosquito bites. The disease is not life-threatening, but recovery takes several weeks and those affected are typically weaker for a long time.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

About four to seven days after being bitten symptoms begin to appear. The infection begins with flu-like symptoms including a sudden fever and followed by severe joint pain and generalized pain in the body and legs. Pain is especially common in the knees, ankles, small joints (especially in hands and feet) and any previously injured area. Pain may be so severe that victims are unable to walk and end up physically bedridden. Other common symptoms are a rash and headache.

Prevelance of Chikungunya

Expatriates may be at risk in the West and Central Java areas. Cases were also reported from West Timor and Sulawesi. There is no specific test to diagnose the infection, and treatment will be supportive rather than curative as for any other viral infection. Therefore, prevention of mosquito bites through repellent, bed netting, and eliminating larva breeding grounds around the house is paramount.

The virus was initially related to the African O'nyong-nyong virus from the same group, which has similar symptomatic characteristics. However, it has been classified as a clearly distinct virus.

For more information on avoiding mosquito bites, read the articles on Dengue Fever and Malaria.

If you have medical-related questions about living in Indonesia to ask of medical professionals, see Ask the Experts.

We trust this information will assist you in making correct choices regarding your health and welfare. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for personalized advice from your medical adviser.

Our appreciation to International SOS, an AEA Company who has contributed this article to assist expatriate families in Indonesia.