It will soon be 7 months since I contracted the virus, Chikungunya, shortly after returning to Bequia last summer. I should add that it’s been a veeerrryyyyy looonnngggg 7 months at that! This was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life – even worse than when we contracted Dengue fever, because as one of my friends succinctly put it, “This seems to be the virus that just keeps on giving …” She had that right! Just when you felt you were rounding a corner … you weren’t, and you became more ill again, sometimes with a new symptom you hadn’t noticed before.
Fortunately I’m now at a point where I can say that the only part of my body still aching at times is my right shoulder and bicep. I no longer have the cramping in my hands at night, or the sleeplessness, or the tiredness the rest of the time, or the fuddled brain (I think the lack of brain power I’m experiencing now may have more to do with age than virus), or lightheadedness, or lack of balance, or lack of appetite I experienced over these past 7 months.
And I realize, too, I was one of the “lucky” ones who contracted a milder version of the virus. Friends tell me still of aching joints and difficulties they’re suffering (mainly the same list of symptoms as above) and they’ve endured this virus for many more months than I have, as well.
We heard of two eldery people on St. Vincent who died as a result of complications from contracting the disease, and another tradesman on Bequia who has had to give up his occupation altogether, because he can no longer do the physical work he used to before he came down with Chikungunya. I’m sure there are more we have not heard about whose lives have been completely changed this past year.
Now the good news is that there have been no new reported cases of Chikungunya on Bequia for quite some time, so the feeling is that the virus has been eradicated from the island. Although, I didn’t report my case, knowing there was nothing the doctor could do for me that I wasn’t already doing for myself. So I wonder how many more people like me haven’t reported and whether there are others who continue to contract the virus, but are not reporting. It’s true that if no one on Bequia is in the early stage (the first 5-7 days) then mosquitoes that bite them cannot pass the virus on to anyone else. However, I heard of a visitor from Barbados (where the virus was still circulating before Christmas) who came to Bequia, began showing symptoms, and was immediately packed off back from whence he came. Have we managed to track down all other visitors to our island who may be bringing a new strain of the virus for the mosquitoes to spread around? Granted, those of us who have already suffered with this cannot catch it again, but there are still people, and new tourists arriving daily, who did not contract it the first time.
Of course, we’re not supposed to be talking about Chikungunya at all, pretending that it never happened, because … Shhhh! We don’t want to scare away the tourists. But I haven’t been writing these blog posts about my own experience due to some warped idea I have of destroying tourism in the Caribbean. Far from it! I believe it’s important for people to know and understand that this virus has been prevalent here and it really is something you do not want to catch – but that you can prevent catching it, and spreading it, by using common sense and protecting yourself against mosquito bites. We do need to be talking about it and warning visitors.
And I’m continuing now to write about Chikungunya and warn people, because every day someone out there comes to my blog by googling the word “Chikungunya” – and every one of those people is hoping to find help, information, and comfort from reading what I’ve written. (My previous posts: Chikungunya – you cannot begin to imagine …, Blame it on the Chikungunya …, Stop hiding the problem of Chikungunya!, Chikungunya … and it just keeps on ticking!, Finally!! Warnings and solid information about Chikungunya! and Chikungunya … finally, on its way out!) Just today I replied to a woman who wanted to know how much longer the virus will last. I’ve heard from people all over the world who were relieved to hear they were not alone, that others had gone through the same difficulties, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. One man told me he thought he was going to die, because neither he nor his doctors had a clue as to what was wrong with him – until he read my blog posts. There’s been kind of a kinship formed as fellow-sufferers compare what they’ve gone through and we discuss the pros and cons of various remedies they’ve tried and how they feel now, months later.
After all, until Lindsay Lohan contracted Chikungunya in the South Pacific, few people in the world had even heard of it. Maybe that was a good thing then, that it suddenly became a “celebrity virus” making everyone more aware of what all of us non-celebrities have been going through for months, with no media attention whatsoever.
So please consider this a 7-month check-up post about Chikungunya, telling you where I’m at with the virus. I want to hear from the rest of you, if you’ve also had this virus – especially those who contacted me about it previously through this blog. How long have you had the virus? What were your worst symptoms? Are you still suffering from any of those symptoms now. I really do want to know how everyone out there is doing.
And I hope you’re much closer to finally being over this completely.