Tag Archives: virus

Sorry, temporarily closed due to Chikungunya Brain …

As my friend, Betty Jane Hegerat has said previously, this is the virus that just keeps on giving … and giving, and giving, it seems. I don’t know if it’s because the weather suddenly turned hot again over the past couple of days, but I had begun to notice that same pain in my shoulder again, which was where the virus began for me in Aug. 2014, and that I was tired, generally achy and headachachy, yet was a total insomniac last night. Then today, I’m scattered (hence the “Chikungunya Brain” in the title) and my eyes are sore and tired.

And it’s not just me! I’ve spoken with 3 others who also had the virus in 2014 who say they’ve noticed symptoms returning lately. Never as bad as when we first had it, but still not pleasant to experience any of this again. Dennis was the one who suggested the return of hot weather may have triggered the symptoms to start up again. He could be right.

While I’m dealing with Chikungunya Brain, I’ll be stepping away from the computer a bit – which may, in fact, be a good thing. I’ve started sorting and packing for my trip back to Canada in April, so I certainly have enough to do otherwise with my time and concentration.

And for those of you who are reading this and saying, “Chikun-what??” here’s a link to the first blog post I wrote about this nasty virus, Chikungunya – you cannot begin to imagine. You’ll find links to the other 11 blog posts I wrote about ChikV here. I had queued up a 13th post with the title, Chikungunya and Zika, they just keep on ticking … way back in early Feb. of this year, but never got around to actually posting that. So here’s the article about Zika that was going to be about.

Finally, I’m sorry to report that I STILL have people finding my blog by using search terms like, “pain and numbness in hands from Chikungunya” and “how long will pain from Chikungunya last?” I find this particularly sad as there’s really no cure for this virus and, as I and my friends are discovering, ChikV will continue to keep on giving, and ticking, and will likely come back to wreak havoc with my shoulder, my muscles, my eyes and my brain for a very long time to come. Urgh!!

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Zika is the new Chikungunya … an update

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.

Here’s a report from Barbados of their first documented case.

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.

12-year-old girl first in the Caribbean to contract the Zika virus 

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!

Chikungunya … finally, on its way out!

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 …

Finally!! Warnings and solid information about Chikungunya!

Since I first posted this, Caribbean 360 has published a very informative and comprehensive article about Chikungunya, which everyone who is planning on travelling to the Caribbean should read. Forewarned is forearmed!

Just this morning, a friend in St. Vincent posted a link to a song and video produced in Jamaica that warns and informs Caribbean Nationals, in a way they can all understand, about the threat of the Chikungunya virus that has been wreaking havoc throughout the region since Dec. 2013.

Chikungunya Song from Jamaica by Wayne J

Then, I also received a comment on the post I published yesterday, Chikungunya … 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 – you cannot begin to imagine …, Papaya Leaf Juice … right under our noses!, Blame it on the Chikungunya …, Stop hiding the problem of Chikungunya!)

I sent an email to Darlene immediately, because in her comment she mentioned taking medications that had helped to alleviate the symptoms. She replied with a very comprehensive and informative description of Chikungunya and the treatment for it that she had gleaned through online research, and that she has been undergoing herself. I have her permission to post that email message for the benefit of all my blog readers and those who are also suffering from this virus. I hope what Darlene has to say will be of help to all of you when seeking medical attention.

Hi Susan, thanks for what you have been writing. I wish I had seen it earlier.

So, here in the Dominican Republic most doctors don’t even speak English and almost all online research is in English. I did all my own research after spending hundreds of dollars on meds that did not work.

Then I cleared everything with an American doctor who continues to help me.

First, swelling of feet or any other part are not connected to long term issues. What is connected is that 3 month window. IF the symptoms are NOT improving then you are LIKELY in for the long haul. In some people, the virus deposits “things” in our joints and near our joints, that is what causes our symptoms, apparently. Until that “clears” which can take up to 2 or 3 years, we are left battling symptoms. There is NO evidence of long term damage in otherwise healthy people.

*** I started on the following meds: 3 times a day for 5 to 7 days:

1. Omeprazol 20 mg. This helps protect the stomach, take this and then eat something.

2. Mefanac – Acido Mefanamico – powerful anti-inflammatory 2 x 500 MG

3. Dexametin – steroid – .5 mg

*** THEN once the symptoms went down (swelling decreased and no pain): 2 times a day – 8 to 10 hours apart for about 2 weeks:

1. Omeprazol 20 mg. This helps protect the stomach, take this and then eat something.

2. Mefanac – Acido Mefanamico 2 x 500 MG

3. Dexametin – steroid – .5 mg

*** ONCE stable:

1. Omeprazol 20 mg. This helps protect the stomach, take this and then eat something.

2. Mefanac – Acido Mefanamico 1 x 500 MG

3. Dexametin – steroid – .5 mg

*** IF all stays stable – no increased swelling or any pain: 2 times a day IF symptoms return go back to previous dosage:

1. Omeprazol 20 mg. This helps protect the stomach, take this and then eat something.

2. Mefanacx – Acido Mefanamico 250 MG

3. Dexametin – steroid – .25 mg

It is important to be monitored by a doctor! Steroids cannot be started and stopped at whim. It will throw other things into havoc.

I am still on 2 times a day at 500MG and .50 mg of meds. IF I miss a dose my feet and hands start to swell. It is anticipated that this can be needed for up to 2 or 3 years as evidenced in some studies. IT WILL GO AWAY.

Please tell people to not waste money on xrays and studies etc. It is not arthritis and not RA. Doctors just want to diagnose with that because they do not know what else to do! Yikes.

Thank you so much for this, Darlene!!

Fellow sufferers, please note that, as Darlene has mentioned, this treatment should always be monitored by a doctor. But at least you now have some solid medical advice as to how to be treated to alleviate these symptoms.

I would love to hear from anyone else currently suffering with this Chikungunya Virus, whether you’ve contacted me previously or have just now happened upon my blog. Please make a comment below and tell us of your experience, what medical treatment you sought that was effective, and any other information you have that might be of interest and help to the readers of my blog. I will be linking this blog post to social media, as I always do, but also ask that readers share this link with their own friends – especially those either living in or visiting the Caribbean. I don’t want to sound an alarm and scare everyone away from visiting the Caribbean, but believe that if you have all this information I’ve been publishing you will be prepared and can take measures to ensure that you not be bitten by mosquitoes. Or, if you do contract the virus, you at least know the symptoms and can seek medical attention immediately, not wasting valuable time through being misdiagnosed.

And to everyone out there who is currently suffering with this virus, I wish you all a speedy recovery!

Chikungunya … and it just keeps on ticking!

I am now coming up to Week 12 of suffering from this damn mosquito-borne tropical virus, Chikungunya! While I feel infinitely better than I did in the beginning, I have to say that I know I am still not over this wretched virus. My joints still ache, my hands still get numb at night, I’m still tired all the time yet still experience insomnia most nights, and I am still very slow at everything I do – including thinking.

The good news is that I can pretty much “do” for myself in everything now ((like standing up from a chair or the bed, dressing, chopping vegetables) and, other than not being able to open tightly screwed-on jar lids or write legibly with a pen and paper, my daily life has pretty much returned to normal.

I did find I was limited last week when I travelled and had to walk or stand for longer periods than I’d been accustomed to these past few months. They do say that, when you think you’re over this virus, rest some more. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do this week, turning down going swimming with my sister and trying not to move too far away from the computer. (Which is a good thing as I have a lot of computer work to do right now!)

I’m hoping I have now reached the magic 3-month mark and that all remaining symptoms will now miraculously disappear. In fact, I’m counting on it as I have some more travelling to do, starting next week after Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend. Most people I’ve talked with or heard from/about Chikungunya seemed to recover quickly after that 3-month date. I know that others have also suffered from a relapse after those 3 months … I’m counting on me being part of that average group who completely recover at this point.

I can honestly say that I would not wish this virus on my worst enemies! And the only good thing about it is that we will never catch this again, our bodies now having built up an immunity to further infection.

Oh, there is one other good thing about this Chikungunya, and that’s that I’ve met a number of fellow-sufferers who now keep in contact with me, and all because I wrote about this virus in the first place on this blog. People from the UK, St. Martin, Grenada, upper New York State, Dominica, Texas, Newfoundland and St. Vincent who have suffered with this or who know of the virus being a threat in their area have commented on my blog and written to me privately, where we compare symptoms and progress in beating the virus. Thanks to all of you for your support and concern through this ordeal. Your well wishes really have meant a lot to me!

And now – forward to a healthier, virus-free future for all of us!

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.

Chikungunya – you cannot begin to imagine …

Some friends and blog readers know that I came down with a mosquito-borne virus, Chikungunya, shortly after I returned to Bequia in July. This virus had been moving through the community at a fast pace until now, just about everyone on the island has either been suffering with it or is attending to someone who is suffering with it. The only doctor on the island was run off his feet seeing and treating patients, although other than recommending Paracetamol for fever and pain, and Histol for the rash, there was nothing more he could prescribe. Rest, and when you think you might be getting better, more rest. A friend who had spent the winter on Bequia didn’t come down with Chikungunya until the day she went back to Canada for the summer. Somehow she had managed to protect herself from mosquito bites until that last week, but then she was hit by it hard and it’s really affected the quality of her life.

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Here’s what happened to me … I returned to Bequia on July 14th and must have been bitten that night (the virus takes 5 to 7 days to incubate), because I began feeling achy joints and feverish on the 19th – and Dennis had just left that morning for his trip to Canada. I went to bed early that night and did not have a good sleep, so not only was I not rested on the Sunday morning, but I could barely move around the house on my own, let alone make something to eat. One of the other symptoms though is a lack of appetite. I received a lot of sympathy from Dennis’s staff of gardeners and housekeepers, because they had all suffered with the virus at one time or another during the spring. At least I knew they knew I was here alone and offered to help me, if I needed anything. The fever only lasted two days and I have never even felt headachy since then. But the joint pain has increased steadily over the weeks to the point where it has been debilitating at times. I had the full-body rash, as well, but that went away again within 24-hours. What a sight, though! Red splotches over my entire body! Funny that it wasn’t itchy, either. Just unsightful.

I’ve had Dengue Fever before. In fact, Dennis and I both had it at the same time, and it was all we could do to get out of bed for a glass of water. Thank goodness the cats insisted we get up to feed them! Dengue is known as “break bone fever” because you feel as though your bones will crack if you move in the slightest. But what I remember vividly of that illness was the incredible head-pounding headaches and high fevers we suffered. I did not, thankfully, experience anything like that with Chikungunya. And Dengue only lasted about 2-3 weeks for us (although it is possible to catch Dengue a second or third time).

It’s the pain in my joints and the bones themselves that is making Chikungunya unbearable for me, and for everyone else I’ve spoken with who has had this. I’m now into the fifth week since I contracted it, and there does not seem to be an end in sight. I sometimes feel better and think it’s going away and then it just hits me twice as hard the next day. Sometimes my fingers are swollen and cramped up so badly that I can’t even type. (I have not been able to write with pen and paper at all!) Other days, it’s my knees that won’t work properly and I can’t get out of bed or stand up from a chair without help. Always, always, though, I have had an unbelievable pain in my right bicep that is not in the joint and not in the muscle, but feels as though it’s right in the centre of the bone. Of course, I’m right-handed, and I don’t have enough strength in this arm to lift and carry, or even to just do small things, like brush my teeth or hair. It’s difficult to dress myself (so I remained in pajamas most of the time, until it felt a little too much like I was lounging around the place …), or to hold and drink a glass of water, and definitely impossible to write. The pain is much worse at night when you would think that relaxing and sleeping might help. That’s when the numbness in my hands begins and it’s near impossible to get settled into a comfortable position let alone fall asleep. Even then, if I move the wrong way, I scream out in pain, waking up Dennis and the cats (although I’m now not screaming in sheer agony the way I was the first few nights …). Sometimes a hot water bottle helps, but generally I just have to hope I’ll fall asleep deeply enough that I won’t be restless at all. Taking a couple of Gravol sometimes help, but is no guarantee I will sleep.

The other problems I’ve noticed is that I’m not steady on my feet, but I also can’t sit for long periods of time, either. I need to get up and walk around just to increase the circulation again and to stop the numbness in my hands. And then there’s the lack of any exercise, because I just haven’t got the energy, and that lack of exercise is causing my calf and arm muscles to waste away. It’s becoming noticeable. And why-oh-why is this not causing my butt and thigh muscles to waste away, I ask you???? There is no justice!

The worst of it is that my mental capacities are strained. I’m lethargic and I find I’m forgetting more than usual, am not able to concentrate or even focus on anything, and this is the most I’ve written at a stretch that is more than a Facebook status update or short email. I can read, thank goodness, but I’m not sure I’m really retaining all that much.

It’s been a very frustrating 5 weeks, let me tell ya! And when I speak with others, that’s what they all say, too. We’re more incapacitated than feeling really sick. But we’re angry with feeling this way for such a long time. (Some have had these same symptoms I describe for 12 weeks or more already.) And, especially knowing that there’s really nothing we can take to alleviate the discomfort, we’re angry. The ONLY consolation we have is in knowing we can never catch Chikungunya again.

And, fortunately for me, Dennis has never caught it. He’s been looking after me all this time, since he returned from Canada. I would not have been able to survive on my own, that’s for sure. Those cats still need to be fed, regardless of how bad we may feel!

So that’s my Chikungunya story and an explanation as to why I’ve been so quiet on this blog of late. Today I have to say I feel a bit better than yesterday, but even while typing this, I’ve had to be careful of my right arm and the way I hold it. It’s beginning to become painful again now, so I will quit this. My right thumb is going numb, too. I just hope I’ll be able to fly back to Canada again at the beginning of Sept. I can’t imagine travelling anywhere, let alone on planes, feeling the way I feel right now.

Here are links that you might find interesting. And, please note, this virus is only transmitted by two varieties of mosquitoes that thrive in tropical climates. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sakes, that it does not begin to mutate in any way and spread even further than it already has!

From Wikipedia

Canadian Travel Advisory

Caribbean 360