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Times of India
25 October 2010
New Delhi, India

Due to a rise in the number of Chikungunya cases in the city, there is growing concern about the steps and precautions that need to be taken once someone is inflicted with the virus. Doctors warn that while severe joint pain and continuing weakness might be a cause for concern, utmost care needs to be taken to ensure that the patient gets adequate rest. Excessive medication must be avoided at all costs.

Dr Sanjeev Bagai, CEO, Batra Hospital said that normally, only paracetamol is sufficient to take care of the fever and antibiotics should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. "It is important to not over–drug the patient at this point specially since the patient would be showing extreme weakness and pain in the joints. Excessive medication may only end up precipitating the rashes that erupt in the course of the illness. Steroids can also end up causing diarrhoea. Only nonsteroidal anti–inflammatory drugs should be given in severe cases," he said.

Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, head of internal medicine at Max Hospital, added that specific anti–inflammatory medicines can be given if viral arthritis develops. "Medication should be done only under a doctor’s supervision. For the rashes, an anti–allergic is sufficient. It is important to keep the medicines to the minimum. Nothing stronger than a paracetamol is normally required," he said.

The test for Chikungunya also needs to be carried out at the right time during the course of the illness. Its symptoms are much like that of dengue, except for the joint pain, and the viral infection can only be confirmed after 2–3 days. If not treated properly, doctors say the fever could also lead to liver and renal dysfunction and inflammation of the heart tissue in some cases. "The symptoms for Chikungunya start showing after about 3 days and are visible only for 9–12 days. If the test is not carried out during this period, it might not show up at all," said Bagai.

Other than that, patients need a lot of rest, light food and lots of liquids. "The fever leaves the patients really weak. So adequate rest is essential. During the initial phase of the fever, drinking lots of fluids is essential. The fever also causes nausea, so spicy and oily food should be totally avoided. Once the fever goes, patients are left with acute joint pain which may last for a week, a month or in some cases several months. It is necessary to ensure proper rest at this time," said Budhiraja.

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