Expert: Dengue patients should get tested for Chikungunya, too

  • Nation
  • Monday, 11 Feb 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: People living in Chikungunya endemic areas should get themselves tested for the disease other than getting a standard dengue test, says Sungai Buloh Hospital Infectious Disease Unit head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee.

He said both Chikungunya and dengue have similar symptoms during the initial stage, such as fever, rashes and joint pains, and it would be difficult to tell them apart.

“It is important that people first test for dengue because it can be life-threatening, but not Chikungunya.

“But if you are from Chikungunya endemic areas, it will be good to do the test as well,” he said yesterday.

Dr Lee admitted that Chikungunya tests might not be as widely available and patients would have to go to health facilities that provide such tests.

While most joint pains from dengue or Chikungunya last up to seven days, some patients suffer for months, and about 10% of them reported joint pains lasting as long as three to five years, and they tend to occur among older patients, he said.

Dr Lee said whenever there was a spike in dengue, there was also likelihood that Chikungunya could spread because the two infections were spread the same way –through Aedes mosquito bites.

For this reason, he said people need to take the same precautionary measures as those taken against dengue infection.

A freelance writer who wanted to be known as Clarissa, 54, said doctors tend to look for dengue but miss the diagnosis for Chikungunya.

In her case, it all started with aches in her knees in December 2008 that she thought she had injured herself.

“I was limping for two days and the discomfort became worse.”

She went to a doctor who did the tourniquet test and it did not show any sign of dengue infection at the time.

Two days later, she had rashes and was found to have mild dengue.

One month later in Jan 2019, her body was still aching badly.

Clarissa decided to get tested for Chikungunya and she tested positive, and was put on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for almost three months.

She decided to stop the medication and the pain persisted for another two months.

“The doctors should test for dengue and Chikungunya so that patients get the right treatment,” she said.

Maimunah Ibrahim, 83, said doctors suspected she had Chikungunya in 2009.

It all started with high fever followed by severe headache. Then, her temperature shot up further and she started having pain in the joints.

“They were very painful. I couldn’t move my arms after the fever subsided,” she said, adding that her children had to help her get dressed.

She then got an injection at a hospital to reduce the pain and recovered months later.

A total of 39 Chikungunya cases were reported in the country from January until Feb 7 this year, with Selangor recording the highest number of cases, totalling 23, the Health Ministry said.

The highest number of Chikungunya cases was reported in 2009, which was 5,430 cases.

The country is also on a national dengue alert after the number of cases spiked to 9,119 in the first three weeks of the year with 16 deaths reported.

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