History of Chikungunya in India

Sunday, 2/10/2016


Chikungunya and its beginning


Chikungunya was first detected in 1952 in Africa followed by an outbreak on the Makinde Plateau. For the ones who don’t know, this area lies between the border of Mozambique and Tanzania. The word ‘chikungunya’ is supposedly derived from a description in the Makonde language, meaning “that which bends up”, of the contorted posture of people affected with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with this disease.

The history of chikungunya in India dates back to early 1960s. There is a confirmed history of outbreaks of chikungunya during 1963–64 in Calcutta, which is now known as Kolkata. In the year 1965 in Chennai more than 3,00,000 people were reported to be affected by the same. Before the latest outbreak that started in August 2016, the last case was reported in 2005. Before that an epidemic in India was reported from Barsi which is in Maharashtra in the year 1973. Around 37.5% of morbidity was reported to hit the town back then.

The Kolkata outbreak in 1963 had started around July which reached its pick around November and then rapidly declined in December that year. Children and elderly were the ones who were severely affected by this epidemic. However, the entry of chikungunya virus in India is unknown, although Calcutta air and sea roots are believed to be the entrance points for the same. There were
lakhs of cases of deaths which were recorded during the 1963–64 outbreaks.

Is India going back to the 1960s?


Today, the capital of the country is battling against this deadly disease but back in 2005 cases of suspected fever was reported from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The hospitals were flooded with patients and the initial reports came in through newspapers and media. The common complains of fever and joint pain was everywhere. Later it was investigated in both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and the health officials confirmed the occurrence of chikungunya.

WHO also confirmed the occurrence of chikungunya in India. More than a million suspected cases were reported. In 2006, reports even started doing the rounds that it was widespread in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat along with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Since the early 2005, chikungunya virus has emerged in the islands of the south-western Indian Ocean. The first outbreak was reported in Comoros during the same time. Later that year, the virus had circulated to the other islands and countries. Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar and Mayotte were the ones where it circulated.

The most affected island is Reunion where more than 30% of the population was affected by chikungunya virus till mid of May 2006. As of 2008, it become a worldwide threat as it was widespread in countries like Benin, Comoros, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Congo, Italy,Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Tanzania, Cambodia, East Timor, Mauritius, Kenya, Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, Cameroon, Laos, Gunea, Srilanka, Reunion, Seychelles, Central African Republic, Madagascar, India, Myanmar, Senegal, Mayotte, Sudan and Vietnam.

The recent outbreak of both dengue and chikungunya in the capital has left everyone shocked and if the reports are anything to go by then it’s time we actually start taking this issue seriously. More than 30 people have died of this in the past thirty days and Delhi alone has recorded over 3000 cases of people affected by the disease until now.

Even some of the finest players of the Indian cricket team are reported to be suffering from the disease and are being dropped for the upcoming matches. Poor sanitisation condition is something that India has suffered from a long time now and the need of the hour in this concerning time is to take lessons from other countries. Even after affecting more than 3000 people,

it’s ironic how most of us don’t actually know what chikungunya is. Firstly, the government should come up with a public awareness campaign just to make sure that the people are aware of the disease and its symptoms. Later, necessary measures can be taken by the health department to ensure everyone’s safe health. Along with the government, we also have to keep ourselves updated on the same and should find ways to eradicate chikungunya from the nation.

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