Chikungunya Virus and Effects on the Oral Environment

My practice is in Atlanta, home of the CDC – the place where diseases and their treatments are monitored and researched.

Some of my patients get to travel to exotic places for work where they have a chance of being exposed to unusual diseases.

With the ebola scare, one of my patients mentioned that the chikungunya virus is another problem especially in tropical places like Haiti. And wouldn’t you know it, two weeks later I had my first patient who cancelled an appointment because he had contracted chikungunya in South America.

A few basics about this disease: it is transmitted by a mosquito bite. Once infected there is a wide range of time when symptoms occur. There is a fever of 102-104 degress F and a feeling of no energy. The biggest problem is the joint pain that accompanies the onset of symptoms and continues for days or months after the fever resolves.

As far as oral symptoms go there can be some ulcers similar to aphthous ulcers. Patients also report a loss of taste. The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a joint and can become sore as a result of this virus.

So, at a dental office, patients are probably not going to show up for treatment during the acute phase of this virus. The patient I was referring had no signs in his mouth, his cleaning being 2-3 months after contracting chikungunya initially.