Since I plan on conducting my dissertation research on Haiti, I tend to keep up on local Haitian and Caribbean news. One thing that has been a very popular discussion topic, has been the introduction of the Chikungunya virus into the Americas. After reading many articles on the virus, I thought I would compile an overview of the virus, its symptoms, treatment, prevention, and further resources. Chikungunya is not life threatening, so don’t start panicking, but it is discomforting and painful. Hopefully this information helps you or someone you know prevent contracting the virus.
Please be mindful that I am not a doctor or expert scientist. With that said, before implementing any of this information, do your research, contact your doctor, or read the instructions on the materials.
1. The Disease
The name Chikungunya is derived from the African Kimakonde language and it means to become contorted. Chikungunya is a virus that is spread from mosquitoes to people. There is no person to person transmission. The particular species of mosquitos that carry the virus tend to bite in the daytime. These mosquitoes also happen to spread the Dengue virus as well.
2. The Geography
In the past, the Chikungunya has mostly occurred in Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, recently it has been spreading across the Caribbean, with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimating 250,000 cases, half of which are in the Dominican Republic. As for the United States, there has been an increase, but not as alarming as in the Caribbean. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), between 2006 and 2013, an average of 28 people per year in the United States tested positive, all of these documented cases were travelers coming from Asia. Since January 2014, 129 cases have been reported, 110 of the travelers were coming from the Caribbean, 3 from the Pacific Islands, and 1 from Asia. Every Tuesday the CDC updates news on the Chikungunya virus, and to date the contraction of the virus has not been through local transmission. This means all of the cases are from people travelling into the United States are who already infected.
3. The Symptoms
It is important to know that Chikungunya is not fatal, however high-risk individuals run the chance of having health complications. After being bitten, it takes about 3 to 5 days for symptoms to show. Here are some symptoms:
It takes up to one week to recover, but it can last several weeks up to a month. Some articles I have read said, once a person has the virus, they cannot get it again, but I have also seen accounts of people who have been getting it more than once. Perhaps they have something else? At any rate, it is best to see a doctor if you have these symptoms and if the symptoms are increasingly getting worse.
4. The Treatment
There is no vaccine.
However, if you are in pain, you can take paracetamol, Tylenol, and acetaminophen. Avoid using ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen because it can increase bleeding if a person has been misdiagnosed and they actually have Dengue fever. In addition, it is important to drink a lot of fluids and get plenty of rest.
5. The Prevention
Despite there not being a vaccine for Chikungunya, there are some measures a person can take. The main one that is suggested by the CDC is as simple (or not as simple) as avoid getting bit by mosquitoes. Some steps that might help you avoid the mosquitoes:
I don’t know how accurate this is for the larger population in the Caribbean, but when I told one of my Haitian friends who lives in Haiti about Chikungunya, how to prevent it, and the symptoms, he said he heard the government talking about it, but none of his friends believe it originates from mosquitoes. If this belief is widespread, it can be problematic in terms of trying to get people on board with utilizing preventative methods. Communication and education are vital.
Something to note. Governments will probably be inclined to do mass spraying, but the environmental and health concerns should be considered and if possible keep things as natural as possible.
6. The Resources
Early in the post I said not to panic and that sentiment still stands, but it is better safe than sorry. Below you will find information on mosquitoes, making mosquito traps, growing natural mosquito repellents, and information from various health departments.
Videos on Making Mosquito Traps
Videos About Mosquitoes
Planting Natural Repellents
Health Organization Information
How to create proper drainage
Have you had experiences with Chikungunya? Write a comment if you would like to add anything to the discussion
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Prasanth Chandran