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FDA Approves Vaccine Against Chikungunya Virus

Photo taken by Syed Ali, Unsplash.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a single-dose vaccine to prevent infection caused by the chikungunya virus.


The vaccine, Ixchiq, was approved for people 18 years and older who are at high risk of exposure to the chikungunya virus. The virus comes from infected mosquito bites. High exposure exists in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of the Americas. 


However, exposure is growing throughout the world. There were five million reported cases in 15 years, which is why officials refer to the virus as an “emerging global health threat.”


The vaccine was manufactured by a French company called Valneva Austria GmbH in early November, and was evaluated in multiple clinical trials. The FDA reported that the vaccine was given “accelerated approval,” which entailed a fast track because it’s potentially a life-threatening condition. The FDA also has a provision for a tropical disease priority review voucher, which according to the report, aims to encourage the development of new drugs in tropical areas.    


“Infection with chikungunya virus can lead to severe disease and prolonged health problems, particularly for older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval addresses an unmet medical need and is an important advancement in the prevention of a potentially debilitating disease with limited treatment options.”   


According to the FDA’s news release, newborns can get the chikungunya virus during delivery, which can be fatal. A few cases were reported. However, there are adverse reaction warnings attached to the vaccine at this time. Two people required hospitalization during the clinical trial stage, which is why healthcare providers are encouraged to consider their pregnant patient’s risk of exposure before administering the vaccine.  


Chikungunya virus history and symptoms

The chikungunya virus traveled locally through Asia and Africa for a long time before finding its way to the Western Hemisphere. The first place it happened was the Carribean island of Saint Martin in December of 2013. Warmer climates make the virus travel across the globe, including all countries in Central America and confirmed cases in the United States as early as 2015

Although cases in the United States are almost completely obsolete, there are plenty of countries and territories around the world that are currently at risk. 

Chikungunya virus causes fevers, joint swelling, headaches, muscle pain and rashes. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some people develop chronic joint pain after initial recovery from the virus. The virus carries in people’s bloodstreams, and the vaccine virus similarly stayed in people’s bloodstreams for a week during the clinical trial, but it was gone before two weeks were up. 


There aren’t any specific treatments or cures once someone gets the virus, but prevention capabilities improve with this vaccination.

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