By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Another troubling health dimension has been added to that virus with
the funny name.
Researchers are reporting that the mosquito-borne virus may lead to
severe brain infection.
The disease is chikungunya, which sickens several hundred persons a
year in Costa Rica. It is spread like dengue by mosquitoes, so
the continuing anti-dengue programs seem to have reduced infections.
By contrast, countries like México report up to 7,000 cases a
The outbreak that generated the research was on Reunion Island off the
coast of Madagascar in 2005 and 2006.
That outbreak affected an
incredible 300,000 persons.
So researchers decided to check on the impact.
Chikungunya is marked by severe joint pain, inflammation, headaches,
rashes and fever. Symptoms can persist for months in those who survive,
causing debilitating arthritis.
Most people recover within a week. For some people, the joint pain can
continue for months and even years, according to researchers at Central
University Hospital in Saint Pierre, Reunion Island.
They found that the rate of brain infection, or encephalitis, from the
chikungunya virus is higher than the rate seen in the United States due
to West Nile virus and similar infections between 1999 and 2007.
For the study, researchers looked at whether people on Reunion Island
with neurological conditions were still affected three years later. A
total of 24
people had encephalitis that was associated with chikungunya virus, for
a cumulative incidence rate of 8.6 per 100,000 people.
They concluded that the virus may lead to severe brain infection and
even death in infants and people over 65. The death rate
Ministerio de Salud graphic
The pain from the virus seems to be all
for those with
chikungunya virus-associated encephalitis was 17
percent. The virus was reported to be particularly harmful in newborns.
Those who did not die
could have acquired disabilities, they said.
The study was published last week in the online issue of Neurology, the
medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
There is no vaccination against the virus, and the Ministerio de Salud
here and other health agencies encourage protection against mosquitoes,
just as they do for dengue. Chikungunya is carried by two mosquito
species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, that also
Last year in Costa Rica
health officials say that by the end of
2014 there were 106 cases of the chikungunya virus confirmed in
country. Some 36 cases were of persons who contracted the disease
outside the country, but 70 appear to have contracted the virus inside
The ministry launched an alert and encouraged cleanups
breeding areas. The drought in the western part of the country appears
to have cut the mosquito population.
More than a million persons have been infected in the
Western Hemisphere, health sources say.