New cases of Chikungunya virus have been reported in Italy, bringing the total number of cases in 2023 to 6. The latest case was announced by the Municipality of Sansepolcro in Tuscany on Friday, October 6. The infected patient has only experienced mild symptoms. In response, Mayor Fabrizio Innocenti has issued an ordinance for extraordinary disinfection in the area where the patient was located, which began on the same evening.
Chikungunya virus is a viral disease that primarily affects individuals with symptoms such as joint pain, leading them to assume unusual positions for relief. The name Chikungunya comes from the Swahili word meaning “that writhes” or “that which curves”. The first recorded epidemic of the disease dates back to 1952 in Tanzania, but it is believed to have been responsible for an Indonesian epidemic in 1779. Currently, Chikungunya disease is present in 60 countries worldwide.
The virus responsible for Chikungunya disease belongs to the Togaviridae family and is transmitted by arthropods such as mosquitoes. It is considered an imported disease in Italy and is monitored by the Higher Institute of Health, along with Dengue and yellow fever. Travelers, especially to intertropical zones where the virus is concentrated, are advised to seek adequate information before traveling.
Symptoms of Chikungunya disease manifest suddenly after an incubation period of 2 to 12 days. Common manifestations include fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, fatigue, exhaustion, and skin rash. Joint pain is the most debilitating symptom and can persist for a long period even after recovery.
The Chikungunya virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. Female mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, including the tiger mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus), act as vectors for the virus.
While the Chikungunya virus is not excessively dangerous, it can cause acute and prolonged symptoms. Most infected individuals recover completely, but complications can affect different parts of the body, including the eyes, nervous system, heart, and intestines. Late diagnosis, often due to coexistence with dengue, can lead to more severe forms of the disease. Rarely, Chikungunya disease can even result in death, especially among the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions.
Currently, there is no specific cure or vaccine for Chikungunya virus. Treatment focuses on managing and alleviating the symptoms experienced by the patient. Prevention efforts aim to avoid mosquito bites, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and pregnant women. In response to the recent case, the mayor of Sansepolcro has implemented disinfestation measures and encouraged citizens to practice good hygiene and protect their pets. Prompt isolation of cases helps limit the spread of the virus, which has a relatively low infection rate in Italy.