THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Chik-V is a terrible disease
If you are not heeding the warnings from the Ministry of Health about chikungunya and are assuming that Chik-V, as the virus is commonly referred to in other islands, is nothing to really be concerned about, take it from me when I tell you that this disease is no sweet bread.
It may sound strange coming from me, who has no professional or other association with that ministry, who has not been a victim of the disease, who only knows two people who have been affected in Barbados, and who is not a medical practitioner.
Nevertheless, right now my worst enemy is a mosquito and I am so paranoid about its existence that I am leaving no hiding place or breeding place unturned in order to eliminate any chances of its survival in and around my home.
This comes in spite of the fact that biting insect like mosquitoes and sandflies are not attracted to me. I don’t know if my blood gets them drunk and disoriented in flight or if it’s that they are repelled by my body odour. For while others around me are slapping and swatting with their skin and showing signs of having been attacked, I normally remain untouched.
Why then am I on this campaign of encouraging the eradication of the mosquito? It’s because I am just back from Grenada where the incidence of Chik-V has reached epidemic proportions and where, as you drive along or walk around, there is no mistaking the telltale effect on victims.
With 2 000 or more confirmed cases to date and with close to 60 per cent of the just under 106 000 population manifesting symptoms, Grenadian authorities have even been reported as considering the reintroduction of the Mosquito Destruction Act to deal with the breeding of mosquitoes in light that significant number of people suffering from the virus.
The 1952 legislation was aimed at encouraging people to apply proper environmental hygiene practices to reduce the mosquito population and minimise the incidence of dengue, which was prevalent at the time. It provided for a fine of EC$25 for first- time offenders found guilty by the court of having containers of water with mosquito larvae in them on their properties. Repeat offenders were fined EC$500.
What I saw in Grenada and what I am so afraid of, was the evidence everywhere of people in one of the two phases of Chik-V, acute and chronic.
The acute phase, which lasts from a few days to a few weeks, includes an abrupt onset of chills, fever reaching up to 104°F, vomiting, nausea, headache, and severe joint and muscular pain that is so intense that it makes movement very difficult.
In the chronic stage, victims can suffer from joint pains for up to two years, depending on their age. According to the medics, 90 per cent of infected adults are symptomatic after infection and most become disabled for weeks to months as a result of decreased dexterity, loss of mobility, and delayed reaction. (Recurrent joint pain is experienced by 30 to 40 per cent.)
As I waited at the Maurice Bishop International Airport for my flight home, I sat in a bar in the departure lounge and ordered a cup of coffee. But the attendant, a Chik-V victim, moved in so much obvious pain that I felt sorry for having disturbed her.