Thanks to Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge for informing me of the existence of this new mosquito-borne virus recently discovered in Haiti. Mayaro is “closely related to the chikungunya virus” as we discover in this article posted in the MiamiHerald on Sept. 15, 2016: A new mosquito-borne illness has been detected in Haiti.
As most of my readers know, I contracted, and suffered from, the Chikungunya virus in July, 2014. Two years later and I realize I haven’t noticed any further symptoms of late (knock on wood!) but I do know of others who continue to have problems. And, in the meantime, Zika has also swept through the Caribbean. Now there’s another virus to be concerned about, just as I head back to Bequia for the winter. Hoo boy!
I’ve posted a number of articles previously to this blog (scroll down that page for the complete series) about both Chikungunya and Zika and will now be adding this new post to that list. Far from these viruses having run their course, I’ve found a number of readers have been making their way to my blog looking for information and clicked on these articles I’ve written after searching with phrases such as “unable to stand up properly due to chikunguniya” and “no hunger after chikungunya” and “numbness of arm chikangunya or dengue” – and that’s just in the past couple of days!! Over the two years since I began writing about Chikungunya, this topic has been among the most popular of anything I’ve posted. Obviously people are still suffering, and are still having trouble finding answers and treatment.
So I post this new information now, not to be alarmist, but so that people will become better informed as to what’s happening out there. As always, the best cure for any of these viruses is preventing mosquito bites in the first place. So if you are heading to a tropical destination be sure to use repellents and clean up any standing water where mosquitoes love to breed.
Perhaps in the long term, the experts will discover a means of ridding us of these viruses altogether. Let’s hope it happens sooner, and before another virus mutates and develops.
Not to be alarmist or anything, but …
NO! I DO WANT TO BE ALARMIST WITH THIS BLOG!!!
I’m reblogging a post I wrote in June 2015, part of my series about the virus Chikungunya that so many of us suffered from in 2014, and that some are still suffering from today, if the number of hits those posts continue to receive is any indication.
Last June, a brand new mosquito-borne virus named Zika was beginning to enter the Caribbean. At that time, we were told that it was a “Chikungunya or Dengue Fever-like” virus, but we had no idea then of the long term effects this particular virus would have on pregnant women who contracted it and the babies they subsequently gave birth to.
And a more recent report: Three Zika virus cases confirmed In Barbados
And an absolutely alarming video of what’s been happening with babies born since last June … It’s reported that there have been over 3500 such births in Brazil alone!!
And finally, a report released today by the CDC that the first cases have been reported in the US.
Following is the blog post I wrote back in June 2014, and in all this time not one word has come from the St. Vincent Government by way of warning to citizens and tourists, and there have been no plans discussed as to how we will be better prepared this time to combat these blasted mosquitoes that are carrying the new virus. Other than the NGO Rise Up Bequia posting to its Facebook site, I have seen nothing at all about this virus. You’d think they would have learned from Chikungunya, right?
Perhaps now that the US has reported cases, our local Caribbean governments will begin to take this new virus much more seriously and we won’t be caught as we were with Chikungunya, essentially closing the barn door after the horses had already escaped.
And a word of advice to the authorities … fogging with chemicals has never, ever worked to eradicate mosquitoes in the past. All it does is kill off the honey bees and poison the rest of us on the island. We need to clean up all standing water and any places where mosquitoes breed. And every citizen must become vigilant about this. We can’t afford to wait for the government to do this for us. We also can’t hide our heads in the sand again, claiming that this will scare away the tourists. We owe it to those tourists to be honest, to warn them of the dangers involved should they contract any virus, and let them decide whether they want to take the risk. Really, there would be little risk involved, if they are made aware of the need to always use insect repellent – and (a BIG if here) if the people of the Caribbean do as much as they can to clean up the environment and diminish the number of mosquitoes.
So, yes, alarmist, but I believe the alarm is necessary. I would not want anyone to have to go through what I did with Chikungunya. I still have problems with pain in my shoulder, a full year-and-a-half after I first contracted the virus. NO ONE needs to be unnecessarily exposed to any virus, since we really do have the means to rid our islands of mosquitoes.
Here’s my blog post from last June:
At the very least, this new virus has a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce. But it’s still yet-another virus the Caribbean region must contend with, and only a short while after declaring that ChikV was over and done with in most islands.
It was less than a year ago I contracted ChikV when I returned to Bequia for a few weeks to spell Dennis while he paid a visit to Canada. Throughout the months of suffering … and yes, I do not use the word “suffering” lightly! … I wrote about the virus in a number of blog posts (collected here) that received a great deal of attention from around the world and comments written by others who had also contracted the virus while they were visiting, or living in, the Caribbean region, and who now took comfort in the knowledge they were not alone, that they were likely not going to die, and that they would eventually, eventually recover and feel “normal” again.
Well, here I am, writing this 11 months later, and I can honestly say I am feeling about 96% recovered, the only lingering pain being that soreness that seems to be inside the very bones of my right shoulder. That still bothers me every once in a while (just last night, again), but is not excruciating or debilitating, just annoying.
So you may understand my trepidation with the announcement of this new easier-to-spell-and-pronounce virus, Zika. I am gun-shy about travelling to the Caribbean again any time soon. While I currently sit in the woods of Ontario, surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes, I at least know these are the non-virus-bearing variety. Besides, they’re also large enough to carry away a small dog and move so slowly I have a fair chance of actually swatting and killing them before they can manage to bite. It seems like more of a fair fight to me. The mosquitoes on Bequia are sneaky and have a way of beating all our attempts to eradicate them – especially the fogging with poisonous chemicals, which was the only attempt made by the government to deal with Chikungunya last year, and instead resulted in the kill-off of part of the bee population. The mosquitoes themselves somehow managed to dodge that bullet. What stopped the further spread of the virus was that nearly everyone on the island contracted it and, since the virus could not be spread from human to human, it eventually died out, naturally. This is what’s called “herd immunity”.
Let’s hope Caribbean health authorities and governments learned from their mistakes last year in dealing with ChikV and, instead of hiding their heads in the sand (believing that by doing so they were somehow protecting their tourist industry), they take immediate action to stop the spread of Zika, the new kid on the beach, before it gets a foothold. No one … NO ONE! should be made to suffer again as we all did last year with Chikungunya. Bad enough already we have to contend with the constant threat of Dengue (which I have had), Malaria, West Nile, and all the other mosquito-borne diseases, fevers, threats, than to be worried about Zika, as well.
And we can begin eradicating viruses such as Zika by educating the people! This blog post, and the other earlier posts I wrote about ChikV, are my attempt to spread the word to help stop the spread of the virus. Please share this, and my other posts, wherever possible so that many more people read and hear about these mosquito-borne viruses and learn to take proper precautions.
SPREAD THE WORD TO STOP THE SPREAD OF ZIKA!
(How’s that for a slogan?)
I want to hear from you, if you contracted Chikungunya last year and have been following my blog posts abut the virus. How are you doing? Have you now recovered? Please post a comment below and let me and my readers know of your experience. I really do want to hear from you!
For me, at least … It’s been a long 15 weeks since I first contracted 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 haven’t been noticing the problems of numbness in my hands, tiredness during the day, or sleepless nights. In fact, some lingering pain in my right shoulder and bicep are all that remain. And even that goes unnoticed most of the day. So it seems the virus has run its course. I know that I cannot be infected again, but hope there isn’t a recurrence during the next year or so. I would not want to go through this again!
But, just when we thought people outside the tropics were safe, this article came to my attention. Apparently there is cause for concern that Chikungunya-bearing mosquitoes can breed in Canada. I hope this isn’t true or, if it is, that someone finds a way of stopping these mosquitoes from breeding. This is one nasty virus that needs to be eradicated!
“Bad biter: there’s a new nipper in town” article by Josh Pennell in The Telegram, St. John’s, Nfld.
At least the first snow has already fallen across much of Canada, so mosquitoes and Chikungunya won’t be a concern here again until the spring and summer. But just be extra careful then, people! As I said in my first blog post, You cannot begin to imagine …
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.