Chikungunya vs dengue: know the difference

By: Osler Health International

Osler Health International
Posted on: 17 Aug 2022

They’re both mosquito-borne diseases with the potential to cause severe pain as well as raging fevers. So what is the difference between chikungunya and dengue and what can you do to protect yourself and your family against these viruses?

Dengue and chikungunya in Singapore

Cases of dengue fever are not uncommon in Singapore, which has been battling the tropical disease since its first outbreak in the 1960s. Ever since then, Singapore has been dealing with periodic outbreaks of dengue, with the most serious ones occurring in the 1990s, in 2013 and finally the present day. Expats who are new in Singapore should be aware that the nation is currently experiencing one of the worst dengue outbreaks on record.

The first case of chikungunya in Singapore, on the other hand, only surfaced in 2008.

However, the chikungunya virus is no stranger to Southeast Asia. It has been present since before 1960, with epidemics being recorded in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. With Singapore’s position as a global transit hub, the risk for contracting the virus is not insignificant.

Dengue vs chikungunya symptoms

Dengue and chikungunya share many unpleasant similarities. Both are viral infections that are transmitted via the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. People infected with dengue and chikungunya often suffer from headaches, rashes, high fevers and intense musculoskeletal pain.  

Fever as a result of chikungunya typically lasts 3 – 4 days, whereas dengue fever can last anywhere from 2 – 7 days, or even more.

Unlike chikungunya, however, dengue often causes retro-orbital pain, or pain behind the eyes. Dengue is also potentially deadlier; a small subset of people with dengue will develop severe dengue. Dangerous and potentially fatal complications such as bleeding gums, respiratory distress and plasma leakage can occur.

Still, chikungunya should not be taken lightly as it has the potential to cause lingering joint pain that may last for months or even years.

How can you protect yourself?

Since chikungunya and dengue are both mosquito-borne diseases, you can protect yourself by taking steps to reduce the possibility of being bitten by a mosquito. This can be done by removing any stagnant water as they are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Plant owners, for example, should take extra care to empty water in vases and flower pot plates.

You can also protect yourself and your family by monitoring the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) web page on dengue clusters, which keeps an active record of the locations for every dengue cluster in Singapore. 

If you live in or around a dengue cluster and need to stay outdoors for an extended period of time, please use mosquito repellent on exposed skin, especially products which contain diethyltoluamide (DEET). You can also opt for wearing shirts with long sleeves and long pants to protect yourself, or use mosquito nets while sleeping.

When to see a doctor

If you’re feeling unwell and suspect you may have been bitten, please consult a doctor if you are experiencing some of the symptoms – especially if you’ve had a fever for the past one or two days. 

At Osler Health, we have dedicated doctors that are ready to help you with any concerns relating to dengue or chikungunya. If you are an expat looking for a clinic in Singapore that is conveniently located, look no further! Our clinics in central Singapore at Star Vista and Raffles Hotel Arcade are easily accessible via public and private transport. Our doctors, who are trained in family medicine, are ready to provide support for you and your family.

Need help scheduling an appointment with us? Please contact us by giving us a call or email us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Raffles Hotel Arcade Star Vista