Stop hiding the problem of Chikungunya!

A fellow-sufferer of the Chikungunya virus posted a comment on this blog yesterday on one of the three posts I had written previously. She’s an American who had picked up the virus while on vacation in Puerto Rico and she has been really suffering with it since, for 7 weeks now. (We corresponded further through email and she told me more about her frustrations with the virus.) She came across my blog, was relieved in reading she was not alone, and that the virus would eventually go away. Her doctor back home had not been able to help her at all, because he didn’t know what it was he was dealing with.

I’ve heard of many other tourists who have gone back home with this virus and cannot get any information about it, let alone relief from the symptoms, and are frustrated by the lack of warning they received from the countries in which they were vacationing. Canada did post a travel advisory warning Canadian visitors to the Caribbean that the virus was prevalent, but does anyone ever read those government-issued travel advisories and take heed when they’ve already paid for and are expecting to enjoy a relaxing holiday? Besides, being Canadian, how bothered can we be by mosquitoes? (That was my thinking the first night I ever stayed on Bequia, oh so long ago, and decided I didn’t need to sleep under a mosquito net. I’d spent much of my life at an Ontario cottage where we never used nets. The next morning on Bequia, though, after lathering on the Calamine lotion, I vowed I would never be so haughty about mosquitoes again!)

Those tourists I’ve mentioned above have said they’ll likely return to the Caribbean at some time, but not until they know the virus has been completely eradicated, because even though they cannot catch it again, they do not want their family members to suffer from it. I have also spoken with potential tourists who say they will change their travel plans due to the virus scare. But I have spoken with more peoople who plan to return to the region, regardless, knowing that they must be ever-more-vigilent about avoiding mosquito bites.

I believe the worst part of having this virus, though, is in not knowing what’s happening. One man told me he thought he was going to die from this – until he read my blog posts and realized he had been suffering from all the same symptoms I had, and since I was getting better, he knew he would eventually recover, as well. While he was on Bequia, NO ONE was talking about the virus – because they didn’t want to scare away the tourists. But I say that EVERYONE, tourists and Bequia people alike, were done a great disservice, because we did not receive necessary information, had no idea what to expect from this virus as it ran its course, and were not told of any possible relief available (even in the form of “bush medicine” or papaya leaf juice), because these weren’t medicinal. I think I might have been a lot less scared and angry had I known exactly what I could expect once I contracted the virus.

Isn’t it time for the Caribbean governments to stop worrying about what this virus will do to their tourism and begin warning and educating EVERYONE – tourists and citizens, about what it happening to them? There is so much misinformation among the populace that needs to be set straight. And since Dengue Fever is now about to become the next problem virus in the region, as it is every year at this time, we need to talk about it, as well. These viruses are a fact of life in the tropics, folks, and if you plan to travel to places like the Caribbean you should be fully aware of the risks. How frustrating, though, for those tourists, like my commenter, who come down with these viruses and have absolutely no idea whatsoever what is wrong with them or whether they will recover. A warning won’t necessarily stop them from contracting these viruses, but at least they will know what is happening and that it was caused by mosquitoes.

Maybe what all the health departments and governments in the affected areas should do is print up warnings and hand them out to every tourist as they arrive in each country – much the same as Banff National Park in Canada does with their warnings about Ursus horriblis or Grizzly Bears when you drive through the park gates. They can’t (and shouldn’t!) eradicate the Grizzlies from their natural habitat, but they can at least warn tourists as to how to avoid bears. And until the Caribbean can eradicate these virus-bearing mosquitoes, the least they can do is “inform” tourists as to how to avoid being bitten, as well as what the symptoms of these viruses are, and what to do if they notice those symptoms beginning to appear. Seems to me they’d be doing a greater service to everyone by informing rather than continually hiding the facts and hoping no one notices the truth.

12 responses

  1. Hi Susan!

    An update from us – We contracted ChickV at the beginning of September and to this day (December 14th), we still have joint pains in our feet/fingers. The sides of our feet are sore, some days quite stiff and toes are sore too. Once in a while our fingers are sore and feel tight as well! Three months later!!!

    Agreed, there needs to be more info given to tourists, but Governments are too concerned about losing their hard earned tourism dollars. I’m not sure what the case is in Grenada at the moment as we’re now in Mexico – perhaps the virus has died down?

    Thanks for the post šŸ™‚

    1. Thanks so much for checking on, Goats! Sorry to hear you’re still suffering with this virus. I am too but it’s mild in comparison to what you and others continue to experience. I should write a follow-up blog post about ChikV now that I’m back on Bequia again and do a recap for everyone about what’s going on here now. Happy travels, you two!

  2. […] Chikungunya, 5 days after arriving back on Bequia. (I previously wrote about this here, here, here, here, here and here.) A VERY long 15 weeks!! I can honestly say though that this past week I […]

  3. […] Then, I also received a comment on the post I published yesterday, Chikungunya ā€¦ and it just keeps on ticking!, from another fellow-sufferer living in the Dominican Republic. (And if you are just discovering this blog of mine, because you too have been researching this virus, you may be interested in reading the 4 previous posts I published: Chikungunya ā€“ you cannot begin to imagine ā€¦, Papaya Leaf Juice ā€¦ right under our noses!, Blame it on the Chikungunya ā€¦, Stop hiding the problem of Chikungunya!) […]

  4. Warning would be nice – come on a little fact sheet of symptoms for the tourist – Most tourist are not going to be deterred. (It’s always “won’t happen to me” about everything) . You still see tourist trying to pose kids by bears, elk, and buffalo. But at least it’s their informed choice.
    It’s here, too. Docs are alerted – so patients have some sort of information once they are identified. All the more reason for me to stay inside….more rain today…so more mosquitoes soon. Soooo boring (but atleast I’ve a book to read). Eventually frost will come!

    1. I’ve been corresponding with two Canadian travellers currently living in Grenada who came down with Chikungunya about a week ago. Here’s their blog post about it:

      And I also heard from a woman in St. Martin who caught it in FEB.!!! And is still suffering from it. She says they were first told of the virus in Dec. 2013, yet no one in St. Vincent would acknowledge it’s existence then or even later at Easter when it was obviously becoming an epidemic on Bequia. They kept saying, “Only two confirmed cases …”

      So all of us have agreed that everyone needs more information about this virus, and the others that are carried by mosquitoes.

      Sorry to hear you’re stuck inside, philosophermouse, but as you say, the frost will eventually come!

      I’d like to know where all those mosquitoes go during hurricanes. Big storms never seem to deter them.

  5. Author Rebecca Heishman

    Reblogged this on Dancing With The MS MonSter and commented:
    This post could save lives.

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Becky!

  6. You are doing a great job spreading awareness Susan, and calling for action. Whether you will get it is another matter, but informing people about Chickungunya is enough in itself. Information is still power. I think.

    1. Thanks, roughseainthemed! Let’s hope the right people read what I have to say and consider acting upon my suggestions.

      Another fellow-sufferer just posted a comment on one of my other blog posts to say she contracted it in February – when we in Bequia were still unaware of its existence. Sounds as though she suffered terribly with it, as well.

  7. Susan, I agree with your sentiments entirely. When I had Chikungunya and Dengue at the same time back in April 2014, I honestly wondered if I would die during those first few days , as my fever was so high. To make matters worse, my usually helpful neighbours would not come near me as they had such a fear of this new-to-the- Caribbean-region disease. There was so much confusion, uncertainty and yes, terror. I couldn`t get straight answers from anyone! However, I did read about its background, treatments, etc. on a number of helpful blogs and web sites posted by doctors in India. They`ve been dealing with this disease (off and on) since the 1950`s. I found the information on their sites to be very helpful.

    When I read about your first experience with mosquitoes on Bequia, I chuckled. I remember well my first visit to your lovely island in the clouds and my subsequent encounters with those critters. Although I slept under a net, one of my arms happened to fall out of it one night. The next morning, my arm looked like a severe case of red measles! I also recall being terrified of contracting Dengue. Strange to say that it took 17+ years to succumb to that maladie, and to have it at the same time as the dreaded CHIK!

    When I was in Canada this summer, I experienced the amazement of my doctors as they looked up this disease on their Smart Phones, while I tried to describe my experiences with it.

    While the recovery is slow, I have really come a long way in the almost 6 months since I contracted it. There are considerably fewer cases on Dominica now. But people need to be aware aware of the risk that still exists in the Caribbean so that they can make informed choices about whether (or not) to travel here right now.

    1. Thanks so much for your support, as always, Gwen, and for chiming in with your experience of the virus from Dominica. The more people who talk about this, the better informed everyone will be!

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