During the past 8 weeks mosquitoes carrying the virus Chikungunya has been infecting folks across of the island at an alarming rate.
Chikungunya has caused some Jamaican residents to develop symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, rashes and joint pains. Unlike dengue fever health experts have said chikungunya causes more acute joint pains which could last for a lengthy period.
The initial public information media messages implied that areas affected were chiefly in pocket areas of St Thomas, St Andrew and Kingston. But even at an early stage I knew of folks in my home town of Old Harbour (St Catherine) who had picked up the virus.
During those initial weeks the government downplayed the severity of the virus and the numbers affected. The official statistics of those affected quoted regularly by the government was so far away from the reality on the ground. Especially when you heard about the scores of schools that were hit by low teacher/student turnout. But Jamaicans knew that government would say little for fear of the tourism sector being affected.
In Old Harbour (& surrounding areas) the numbers of folks being affected by the virus was more stark than was first thought. Residents flocked to the local heath centre – based on my street. People were coming from all areas of south west St Catherine to see the doctors. Sadly the lack of any doctor for 3 weeks at the local health centre led to public protests. Many ended up visiting a private doctor. Of which there are many in Old Harbour.
So it was on September 20 that as I woke and planted my feet on the floor that a sharp pain hit my ankles. I just felt it was cramp. But as the day proceeded my walk was at a snails pace. By the Sunday my knees felt sore, elbows ached and my neck raging with feverish heat. Chikungunya deyah. The next 7 days was all about rest and recuperating. But the joint pains still linger.
Given there is no known cure I just took the suggested panadol/paracetamol, had some Vitamin C and just rested to eased the pressure on my joints. Drinking lots of fluids has also been recommended.
The joint pains have an arthritic feel to it. Which we all hope heals in themedium term. A private nurse told me of her concerns for those affected with the virus and have pre-existing ailments. Especially those wilh illnesses such as heart or kidney problems. Sadly such complications could have led a number fatalities this week.
Even with no known cure some Jamaicans have turned to home remedies to combat the virus. Papaya leaf tea has become a popular choice. Others not affected by the virus have turned to guinea hen weed for preventive measures.
Old Harbour is normally a buzzing town. My own street is always busy in daytime. Yet the chikungunya attack has led to many residents staying indoors as so many have been struck down. The verandahs are deserted. Some residents who thought they had recovered from the virus have since gone down again.
One positive from of this crisis is that more attention is now given to rid spots where mosquitoes normally populate. E.g. old tyres, drums containing water, blocked drains. We all have to hope that the such preventive mosquito measures becomes the norm.
The government’s handling of the chikungunya crisis has been lpoor. 2 weeks ago government ministers were more focused on their plans for the political party conferences instead of the ongoing chickungunya virus. Until recently there was a tacit denial by the health minister of the impending crisis.
Some in the medical professional are now finding it hard to cope with the number of patients attending hospitals/health centres for assistance. As one medical practitioner said recently the mosquitoes seemed to have been better organised than the government and wider society. Round one to the mosquitoes.