Chikungunya fever is caused by a Chikungunya virus which belongs to genus Alphavirus of the Togaviridae family and was first isolated in 1952 during the epidemic of fever in Tanzania.
The Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is spread by several mosquito species, mainly Aedes aegypti - the yellow fever mosquito and Aedes albopictus - the Asian tiger mosquito. Aedes africanus and Culex pipiens fatigans are also suspected to spread the disease.
Currently CHIKV is found in East Africa, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe (Albania, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, France, Serbia and Montenegro, Switzerland, Hungary).
The disease resembles dengue fever, and is characterized by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain (arthritis), headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain as well as fever and rash. After an incubation period of 2 to 4 days, there is a sudden onset of fever and crippling polyarticular migrating arthralgias. During the second to fifth day of illness, a papular or maculopapular skin rash may occur, typically on the trunk and limbs. Most patients recover within a few days.So Chikungunya fever is rarely life-threatening, however around 200 deaths were recorded during the outbreak on Réunion island in 2006 and around 130 deaths during the outbreak in Italy in 2007.
As the Asian tiger mosquito is spreading in Europe (especially Mediterranean region), there is an increasing risk of Chikungunya outbreaks there. There is also a possibility that other, local, mosquito species could become transmitters of the disease. And finally, infected people moving to other countries could bring the disease to formerly “clean” countries with viable Aedes albopictus populations