Chikungunya is a viral infection spread by the bite of a mosquito. The virus causes fever and joint pain that can last for weeks or months. Since symptoms of Chikungunya are similar to dengue fever, a precise blood test is essential for correct diagnosis. Chikungunya blood test detects the presence of antibodies that are produced against the Chikungunya virus.
Factors involved to understand the normal range of Chikungunya levels:
Absence of antibodies against Chikungunya virus is the normal result of the test.
A negative serological report of Chikungunya IgM indicates no exposure to the virus and hence, no infection. However, testing for antibodies too early can give a false negative result. Hence, repeat testing is often advised to confirm the result and avoid the chances of a false negative result.
To diagnose Chikungunya serum testing is done < 6 days of onset of illness, RT-PCR is advised, and for > or 6 days after illness, ELISA is suggested.
Presence of IgM and absence of IgG antibodies produced against Chikungunya virus (ChikV) indicates Chikungunya virus infection. It points to a recent or past infection. To confirm the diagnosis, a repeat testing in 5-10 days is often advised.
If IgM and IgG, both antibodies are positive, it indicates a very recent exposure and the patient must be treated for the symptoms.
In cases where IgM is negative and IgG is positive, the results suggest that antibodies against Chikungunya virus already exist and indicates a past infection.
Majority of the patients infected with Chikungunya virus show signs and symptoms of the infection. The most common symptoms that indicate positive chikungunya infection include:
Patients also show lymphopenia (low WBC count) and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count). Symptoms are typically seen 3-7 days after the infection manifests. Most of the patients start feeling better about 7-10 days after the infection but some patients may develop chronic joint pain.
As chikungunya is spread by mosquitoes, the best way to prevent being infected is by limiting the exposure to mosquitoes. The basic precautions that travelers need to take while traveling to countries where chikungunya is prevalent include using repellents, wearing clothing that minimizes skin exposure, using mosquito coils, and insecticide vaporizers.
Other steps that can be taken to prevent infection are staying indoors during early morning and late afternoon, sleeping under a mosquito net, using air conditioning, avoiding traveling to places experiencing outbreaks, etc.
Chikungunya is rarely fatal but can lead to chronic pain and distress. Avoiding exposure to mosquitoes is the only way to prevent Chikungunya.
Blood tests are often associated with no major risks or complications. However in certain cases, minor risks are often observed. These include:
A precise blood test is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of Chikungunya infection. Within initial stages of infection, a blood test is carried out to confirm the presence of Chikungunya virus. Another test called Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) is carried out to detect the presence of IgG and IgM anti-chikungunya antibodies. RT-PCR can also be carried out to confirm the diagnosis when the symptoms last for less than 8 days.
Other tests that are ordered alongside this test are CBC to assess the levels of white blood cells and platelets. Estimation of creatinine and liver transaminases is also ordered as their levels tend to elevate during the infection.
Test results are generally available within 4-14 days after sample collection. There are no special precautions required for the test. You may be asked to fast for 8-10 hours before the test is administered. Inform your doctor about any medications you are taking so he/she can advise avoiding them to prevent interference with the test results.
Chikungunya infection has no specific treatment, but it can be managed by using pain medications, to relieve joint pain and fever, and physiotherapy, for chronic pain. Most patients recover completely within 10 days of the infection. Patients who have been infected once are most likely to be protected from subsequent infections.
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