Chikungunya is an arboviral disease transmitted by aedes mosquitoes. The virus was first isolated in 1953 in Tanzania. Chikungunya virus is a member of the genus Alphavirus and the family Togaviridae. The disease typically consists of an acute illness characterised by fever, rash, and incapacitating arthralgia. The word chikungunya, used for both the virus and the disease, means "to walk bent over" in some east African languages, and refers to the effect of the joint pains that characterise this dengue-like infection. Chikungunya is a specifically tropical disease, but it is geographically restricted and outbreaks are relatively uncommon. It is only occasionally observed in travellers and military personnel. More than 266 000 people have been infected during the ongoing outbreak in Réunion, in which Aedes albopictus is the presumed vector. In the ongoing Indian outbreak, in which Aedes aegypti is the presumed vector, 1 400 000 cases of chikungunya were reported during 2006. The reasons for the re-emergence of chikungunya on the Indian subcontinent, and for its unprecedented incidence rate in the Indian Ocean region, are unclear. Plausible explanations include increased tourism, chikungunya virus introduction into a naive population, and viral mutation.