Dealing with the rapid spread of Chikungunya

Administrator on October 15, 2014, 7:08 am 1602 3
Dealing with the rapid spread of Chikungunya

It is amazing that a few weeks ago the word "Chikungunya" was not in the Jamaican vocabulary. Now, as a result of the rapid spread of this disease since the first imported case in Jamaica was announced in September 2014, this disease has taken the nation by storm. Everyone has some direct and indirect experience with Chikungunya, thanks in part to the Ministry of Health's poor handling of the Chikungunya crisis, the misleading information and slow communication of the true situation affecting Jamaicans. The late reaction of the Ministry of Health and the partner ministries including the Ministry of Local Government, is cold comfort to the thousands of Jamaicans who are already grappling with this painful and uncomfortable disease.

In the face of the dramatic increase in the number of persons presenting with Chick V symptoms and the pressure on the limited resources of hospitals, clinics, and health centers, the Ministry of Health was forced to abandon it's official number of confirmed Chikungunya cases. After all, the low number being reported from the Ministry of Health was in stark contrast to the flood of persons seeking attention for Chick V, the long lines in the Pharmacies, and the general mood of disgust at the lack of action on the part of the health ministry and other state parties. Take the case of St. Thomas, in which nearly 700 students and 60 teachers from 25 schools were stricken by "flu-like symptoms" reminiscent of Chikungunya.

It is clear that the Jamaican government squandered valuable time in it's handling of the Chikungunya crisis. The Ministry of Health was reported as saying that the virus was under surveillance for two years prior to the first case being reported in Jamaica. In the wider Caribbean this vector borne virus was first recognised in St. Martin in December 2013 and had since spread to 14 countries across the Caribbean, infecting some 4,108 persons. Confirmations of the Chick V up to now have been made in the Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Aruba, Martinique,Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis,Dominica, French Guiana, St Barthelemy, St Lucia, St Maarten (Dutch) and St Martin (French).

A major public awareness campaign towards the control of the spread of the Chikungunya virus is now required. All Jamaicans must do their part to rid their homes and communities of mosquito breeding sites. Precautions to halt the spread of this mosquito borne virus include the use of repellent containing DEET, safe garbage disposal, sleeping under a mosquito net, and taking prescribed medication until the the disease runs its course.

The Chikungunya virus is passed on to people by mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes Egypti, the same one responsible for Dengue Fever. The most frequently seen signs of Chick V infection are joint pain and fever. Additional symptoms may also include muscle pain, headache, joint swelling, and rash. Jamaicans are however doubtful that the Chick V is a mosquito borne disease and accurate information from government sources will be crucial to dispel the myths surrounding this disease. One thing to remember is that symptoms will show themselves between three to seven days after an infected mosquito bite. Persons who are at greater risk for the more severe form of this disease include adults over 65 years old, newborns who are infected around the time of their birth, and persons with other medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Once you are infected with the Chick V, you are not likely to get it again. Currently there is no medication to deal with the virus directly. To ease the effect of the symptoms you need lots of fluids, plenty of rest, and pain and fever relieving medicines like paracetamol, naproxen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen. Avoid asperins, asperin based medication, and anti-inflammatory medications which will increase the risk of bleeding.


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