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CHIKUNGUNYA, No Laughing Matter!
By: VirginIslandsVisitor, 6:53 PM GMT on October 08, 2014
“Chikungunya fever is spreading more rapidly through Latin America and the Caribbean than it takes to learn to spell and pronounce its name correctly.”
An acute infectious disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus, characterized by fever, rash, and joint pain, and seen primarily in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. Also called chicken guinea disease.
Origin of chikungunya
Makonde (Bantu language of the region of Tanzania where an epidemic in the 1950s led to the first medical description of the disease) : chi-, sing. n. pref. + -kungunyala, to become contorted, fold up (so called because joint pain causes sufferers from the disease to assume a hunched posture).”
- Most people infected with chikungunya virus will develop some symptoms.
- Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain.
- Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
- Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling.
- Most patients feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months.
-People at risk for more severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults (≥65 years), and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
- Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections."
Back in early January of 2014, we (St. Thomas islanders), began hearing stories of this mosquito-borne virus called “Chikungunya Virus”. Of course, we read the newspapers, listened to the radio and watched television but really, it was all happening in another world, another island and had no real consequence to us, or so most everyone believed. The media kept pushing the issue, but again and again, the common consensus was “Not here, mon, we’re not gonna get dis ting!” We were faithful about turning containers upside down so no water was being accumulated, we religiously used “Eau de Off”, sprayed the insides of the house and all to no avail.
“Dis ting”, now being referred to by various names such as “Chickenchanga, Chimigunya, Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Gumbo,” “Try and Cry” or perhaps my personal favorite being “Chickenganja”, was detected here on the island mid-January, and has spread like wild fire through St. Thomas.
By June there was only one reported case acquired here on the island, and two cases imported. The rumor mill was going fast and furious, that so and so knew so and so, and he knew so and so that had it and on and on. By August there were a suspected 214 cases with 25 of those being confirmed; as of September 13, there are 46 confirmed/probable and 677 suspected cases; and as of September 20, 59 confirmed/probable and 757 suspected. There is no one on this island who has not been affected in one way or another by someone who has had the virus or has had it themselves; two of the four in my household have had it, myself included.
The official status of the virus in the US Virgin Islands can by found here: Link
In my eyes, herein lies one of the problems of verifying actual numbers of cases. The CDC is offering a free blood test to anyone who suspects they have the virus. Having just gone through it myself, I can tell you that the last thing I wanted or needed to do was get into a car and go down to a packed emergency room or doctor’s office and wait hours for the CDC to get a vial of my blood. No, it wasn’t going to happen. I could barely make it to the washroom, let alone down a hallway for a glass of water! There are many on this island who don’t have transportation and have to rely on public transportation to get around. Again, who in their right mind is going to do that when you are so ill and hurting so badly? Again, I say “Not me!” If the CDC/local health authorities really wanted an accurate number, they would set up “stations” around the island and advertise their whereabouts for a few days. I believe they would be amazed at the results they might get and how drastically the statistics would change.
So how is life for me post-virus? The indescribable pain in my feet and hands has left me, but with the gift of the “ouch”, “aiyiyi”, “OMG”, along with moans and groans every morning when I get up out of bed and try to walk. I work the aches and pains out and am good as long as I don’t stop for more than two hours. I am still dealing with pain in my ankles, knees, hips, wrists and back but each day is a little better. However, the hives that I developed the day before yesterday are almost (but not quite) as bad as the virus.
As I mentioned in the blog, this virus laughs at Benadryl. I went into a pharmacy and pleaded with the pharmacist to help me out. To any of you out there reading this blog, that might need this info, this is what he gave me: Leader Anti-Itch Lotion and Leader All Day Allergy pills. It took a little while but they did the trick in helping me with the hives.
It's been about two and a half weeks since I started this blog. Yes, I am still alive and kicking but it's been a hellish couple of weeks. As of today I am left with ankles that swell throughout the day, wrists that hurt so much that I can't open a water bottle, and a general feeling of just being tired which gets worse as the day wears on.
As far as transmission of the virus, you see on the link that I provided above that there are official figures but they so inaccurate!! "Ha, you think you're immune? Just wait...." is a commonly heard expression in my favorite bar. Seeing people walking hunched over and/or holding on to someone for support is not uncommon, nor is there any guesswork involved wondering what is wrong.
To sum this up, there is only one good thing that has come out of me getting this virus and that is the fact that I've had it and am almost over it. Good luck to any of you facing it....
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.