Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chicken fever

OK, the real name is chikungunya but chicken fever sounds funnier.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus, similar to malaria, that has recently been introduced to Haiti. The mosquito that carries chikungunya, however, is a daytime mosquito, so unless you are willing to wear long sleeves all day  or slather yourself in bug spray, you're going to get it.

One report I read says that an estimated 50% of Haiti's population will be chicken-struck in the next few months. I think they're right! For the past 3 weeks, I have been missing at least 1/4 of my students every day as they all cycle through the illness. Our clinic is packed every day. My neighbors are dropping like flies; 5 of the 13 people who share my courtyard have already had it. It's all anyone can talk about. "Have you had 'the Fever' yet?"

The last epidemic that I experienced in Haiti was cholera and it killed people. Fortunately, this new disease is only life-threatening to those with poor immune systems such as newborns and AIDS patients. For most people, having the illness means a few days of high fevers accompanied by severe pain in joints, prompting to people to ignore its true name and simply call it "The Bone-breaking Sickness".

Tylenol and ibuprofen control the symptoms quite well until the disease runs its course. Unfortunately, due to the sudden spike in demand for those drugs, Tylenol doubled in price for a few weeks and is now virtually impossible to find. We are using ibuprofen whenever it's safe and relying on deliveries of Tylenol from the US for those patients that require it.

Epidemics are a funny thing. During cholera, every time my stomach gave a little twinge, I thought, "This is it! I've got cholera!" With chikungunya, it's the same thing, but so far, it's always been a false alarm. I just keep waiting. I'm sure my time will come.

1 comment:

Nancy Marshall said...

Hi Kez, I hope you don't get it. That sounds like the same thing as Dengue ("den gay") fever in Belize. I was told that each successive time you get it, you get it "worse". Don't know if that's true. Hope you can avoid it.