Speaking of Chikungunya …

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.

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19 responses

  1. This sounds very scary! I looked it up on Wikipedia and it sounds quite awful. I hope you recover soon! Sounds like you were one of the lucky ones.

    Here is some info I found:

    On 17 July 2014, the first chikungunya case acquired in the United States was reported in Florida by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[76] Since 2006 over 200 cases have been reported in the United States but only in people who had traveled to other countries. This is the first time the virus was passed by mosquitoes to a person on the U.S. mainland.[77]

    On 2 September 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there had been 7 confirmed cases of Chikungunya in the United States in people who had acquired the disease locally.[78]

    That sounds very concerning. I was thinking of going on a Caribbean cruise next year but after hearing about this, I am not going to any hot tropical place anytime soon. I am a bit of a germophobe and terrified of these tropical virus diseases. But even the cold places have problems: Last summer there was a public health warning about tick borne encephalytis in places near the sea shore in Southern Finland. Since the winter was too warm, there was an excessive tick population in summer. This winter is way too warm, and I’m afraid there may be another epidemic this summer too. It seems only the Arctic circle is safe from all those disease carrying insects. Yuck!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Leona. Canada has now issued a travel advisory to her citizens, warning against travel to the Caribbean because of Chikungunya, but I think it’s actually too little too late. You likely will be okay cruising next year. Just limit the time you spend on shore at the various islands and make sure you cover up or use insect repellant. As you say, though, there are dangers from insects everywhere, so if you are really concerned, it’s probably a good idea to stay home, literally until the coasts are clear of these mosquitoes and viruses!

      1. They have a vaccine for the Tick Borne encephalytis, but the Chikungunya virus is scary since there is no vaccine. I have never heard of this virus until I saw your blog post today…

      2. Yes, and that has been the problem with this virus the entire time … no information!! As I said in one of my earlier blog posts, if the Caribbean governments had warned people visiting the area then those people would have know to either protect themselves or stay away altogether. And had those who did contract the virus and went back home with it known what was wrong with them, that would have saved many weeks and/or months of anguish. Several people wrote to me saying they had thought they were going to die since their doctors had no clue as to how to treat them.

        And this was all kept under wraps to protect the tourist industry …

      3. I have heard similar things about Thailand’s government keeping diseases hush-hush to protect the tourist industry. Unfortunately this sort of policies end up scaring people away and hurting the tourist industry in the long run.

  2. Here in India that disease has struck, but people still don’t want screens on their windows. Many don’t have mosquito netting on their beds either. Thank goodness we have screens. I don’t understand the “no screens” attitude at all. There’s also dengue here. It’s causing more of a problem right now.

  3. I’ve been following your Chikungunya with interest, and think you might consider submitting a piece on it to Ars Medica or to their upcoming contest. See Keeping Posted on canadianwritersabroad.com for the info.

    1. Thank you! I will check out the contest.

  4. Chikungunya Dominica reporting in. I am glad you are improving, Sue. Like you, it’s slow, but sure! If I am tired, I find I have more of the arthritic-like symptoms and spaciness. Interestingly, while in Paris, those symptoms diminished – even when I was tired! I had the same experience in Canada last summer. Despite cooler weather, I had less pain. In Dominica, I am not aware of any cases (at the moment). However, when I boarded the Air France flight to Paris at St. Maarten, they thoroughly sprayed the cabin with a “non-toxic” insecticide. Good thing I was prepared for that surprise! When I returned to SXM, they did not ‘disinsect’, but instead cautioned travellers about CHIKV, its symptoms and to take precautionary measures (!) in order to avoid mosquito bites. That advisory was issued by France’s Ministry of Health.
    I think it just takes time for many of us to recover, so we need to take care of ourselves – to listen to our bodies, and respect their requests(!).
    Here’s to your good health in 2015!

    1. Thanks for checking in, Gwen! And I’m very happy to hear that at least France’s Ministry of Health is taking this seriously and providing warnings.

  5. Last week they released some genetically modified mosquitoes in Florida in hopes they will breed with the Chikungunya infected ones and slowly reduce that population….so it’s there, here, and moving. As you say, if the high profile tourist areas are threatened…
    Glad you are feeling better. Sounds dreadful

    1. I remember now you posted that article about the genetically modified mosquitoes but then didn’t think to add the link to this post. Will look for it now and add the information. At least someone is doing something! Thanks, philosophermouse!

  6. So glad to hear you are beating this thing slowly but surely. Very frightening.

    1. It’s certainly been a slog. Thanks, SK!

  7. I think it’s great that you’ve been talking about this from the very beginning. It helps others who have suffered to know they’re not alone. And it helps others avoid getting sick. I’m sorry you’re still experiencing symptoms. I hope you’re symptom-free soon.

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