Chikungunya: I almost died and didn't even know it!
What is Chikungunya?
Some of you might be hearing this word for the first time, for me, it was this year that I first heard the word too. So what is it? Chikungunya is a virus which is spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same one which spreads dengue fever and yellow fever. In fact, Chikungunya (ChicV for short) was actually formerly called Chikungunya Hemorrhagic Fever.
Have you ever heard of Chikungunya before?
ChicV is therefore a type of fever, like the other two, which is passed on by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and causes high temperatures, chills, cramps, joint pains, rashes, nausea, among other symptoms. Not all symptoms affect people all at once and some people don't experience a fraction of the symptoms at all. Once you contract the virus, you are said to be immune. The catch, however, is the fact that a relapse is usually quite likely, especially within around two to six weeks of catching the virus. The virus is also said to linger in your body and can last for years, affecting especially your joints at times. It gets worse.
ChicV and Borderline Illnesses: increased risk of fatality
Chikungunya somehow seems to affect people worse if they have borderline illnesses and could prove fatal in these cases. Since the outbreak in the Caribbean, many people have died because of underlying illnesses as opposed to dying from the actual virus. Some of these underlying illnesses which have proven fatal with ChicV include brain tumour, sickle cell, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. This is also how the same thing almost happened to me. At the time, I just felt that my medication was not working and I was probably stressed, though I wasn’t particularly feeling stressed. Apparently it is the medication which was working that caused the effects to be milder on me.
Chikungunya and Medication: what works and what's fatal
Another thing that makes ChicV dangerous is consuming aspirin-based medication. This has also proved fatal. Likewise, some people are allergic to paracetamol which is what health providers have been recommending unless and until a proper diagnosis is done. This has also been suspected to have claimed a few lives. There is no cure for ChicV, only medication to treat the symptoms.
Chikungunya and DEET repellents
Health officials have also recommended the use of repellents which contain the main ingredient 'DEET' to prevent the mosquitoes from biting you, but research has also shown where DEET might not be the best substance for your health and has actually been banned in some countries. Other countries have regulated the percentage of DEET that is allowed as well as the age group and frequency of exposure.
100% DEET repellent
The need to eradicate the mosquitoes
There is therefore a need to eradicate the mosquitoes and clean up the mosquito breeding sites. Efforts are underway to breed and release genetically modified mosquitoes to mate with and subsequently kill the female population of the aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Of course this method is also going to raise eyebrows as genetic modification is a hot topic for debate.
Recent droughts and subsequent torrential rains being blamed
Notwithstanding, the prevalence of the virus is being blamed on the recent droughts and subsequent return of excessive rainfall, therefore, the need to clean up the environment is great as it would suggest that there are far too many catchment areas in which these mosquitoes are being bred.