I haven’t written a blog post in a couple weeks for a two reasons, I had visitors!…. and I also had chinkunguya….
As Chinkunguya is making its way into the news in the US, it’s already made its way into almost every home here in the Dominican. Where I live, I can say it’s been in every house, if not every person. About 2 months ago my neighbors first started getting Chinkunguya. I thought I has escaped it until last Thursday, when the tell tale signs of joint pain, fever and headache hit me.
Chikunguya is a virus that’s transmitted by mosquitos. It arrived in the Dominican 2 or 3 months ago and has spread through most of the country rapidly. It has spread so rapidly that there are plenty of conspiracy theories about how it got here. Most of my neighbors think anything from, an explosion in Haina that contaminated the air; the government deliberately polluted the air with Chinkunguya, or that the government accidentally polluted the air then covered it up with the “mosquitos”. Whatever my neighbors think, none of them believe Chinkunguya is from a mosquito. I tend lean more towards science and doctors, and believe mosquitos transmit it.
I also believe the disease is from mosquitos because I bathed in bug spray for 2 months and was one of the only people here to avoid getting it. I let my guard down at the end of July, thinking it was dissipating, just to get the virus one day before my brother and friends’ visit and 4 days before my birthday!
Some of the Chinkunguya tales of rashes, fevers, extreme joint pain, vomiting and diarrhea I thought were exaggerations…until I got it. Thursday afternoon I started to feel weak, I thought and hoped it was just the summer heat. I got back to my house from the main town around 5 when my back and wrist started to hurt. One of the strangest things about Chinkunguya, or CHiChi as it’s fondly referred to here, is that it attacks your weakest spot. I thought this was an exaggeration until my wrist, that I broke 14 years ago was the first thing to start hurting! I called my parents Thursday night to say that tomorrow I’d probably have the ChiChi.
But I didn’t even have to wait until the next day. That night I woke up shivering and freezing, not a normal thing on a Caribbean island. I had a 102.7 fever. I tried to roll over to get acetaminophen and couldn’t even get the mosquito net out because my fingers were like jelly. Every joint in my body hurt, not to mention the splitting headache and high fever. I drank medicine and slept on and off until the AM.
Friday I was up and down. I would take pills and feel well enough to hobble to my neighbors, just to have my fever go up and have to hobble back to my bed. I thought it was an exaggeration but Chinkunguya actually does make you hobble. Every time your foot hits the ground you’re in pain and your legs can’t handle any pressure either so it’s just better to stay seated. At night, I made it to my neighbor’s to call my brother to confirm his flight and immediately had to go home. My fever went up because again, I was freezing. I couldn’t even look at the dinner my neighbor’s gave me without being nauseous and my joints were on fire. My neighbor, who lives literally a one-minute walk, drove me home because he didn’t want me to walk. When I got home, I could barely wash my own face and brush my teeth. My fingers were so weak and painful I couldn’t even take the hair elastic out of my hair. Every time I tried to do something I was surprised at how nothing in my body worked. I learned Chinkunguya was no joke.
Luckily I have amazing neighbors. I was expecting visitors Saturday and had planned to clean my house Friday. My neighbors brought me food, juice and even cleaned my house, washed my dishes and mopped my floor.
My visitors were the best medicine. The excitement of seeing them battled my Chinkunguya and I made it to the airport. I still hobbled but I seemed to forget about the pain. My brother, Eva and Arielle made it to my house safe and sound. We visited neighbors and tried to avoid mosquitos. It was so nice to have them see where I live and experience a day here. Later that night the Chikunguya came back, but in a new form.
During dinner, I became so itchy. I was getting the ChiChi rash. I got a rash all over my chest, spreading to my arms. Days later at the hotel I got rashes all over my legs. Along with the rash, I got intermittent pain and fevers on vacation but nothing like the first day. I got to enjoy my birthday in the perfect way, with family and friends, pool and beach side.
Chinkunguya is a weird virus. This one virus affects your nervous system, your joints, your skin (rashes) and your stomach (I’ll spare you the details) . It also attacks your most vulnerable parts, example my 14 year old broken arm and my neighbor’s bad knee. Also the pain can last 1 to 3 months or even up to a year. It’s been a week and a half since I had it and I still wake up with sore feet some days. Once you start moving the pain goes away but after Chinkunguya you wake up and feel like you’ve aged 50 years.
Also, I forgot to mention the fatigue. Maybe it’s the August heat or remnants of the Chinkunguya but I’ve been sleeping 9-10 hours a night and still can’t keep my eyes open throughout the day. For now, I’ll be sleeping away the Chinkunguya, dreaming of the good ol’ days when mosquitos only transmitted Dengue.