(Note: This post addresses the side effects of dengue and chikungunya viruses and would probably bore anyone who is not facing a current or possible infection. Those not interested have my blessings to cross this page off their screen now!)
Manabi Province – Ecuador
Most every day someone asks me about chikungunya and dengue fever, as the mosquito-born viruses sweep through warmer/tropical areas of the Americas. Debbie, in Nicaragua is presently experiencing the fickle moods of what she suspects is chikungunya, yet it’s hard to get a firm diagnosis. My friend Jody and I swapped stories today, and she is also baffled as we wonder, ‘Which symptoms are linked to dengue, and which are linked to chikungunya?”
“Did the skin on your feet peel?” she asked.
“Three times,” I smiled. We talked about the itching, which I linked to reabsorpion of the plasma from the dengue, but she had heard that many with chikungunya complained of the intense itching. The itching on my arms lasted five or more days.
Although some of my male friends have been sick, they have bounced back faster. Luchi was welding two or three weeks after being sick. “Not fair!” I scowled. Xavier went for a swim in the ocean, though cool water definitely relieves the itchy periods.
Jody and I chuckled when we shared that we had to sit often as we walked through town. She said that she sat on the ground once.
I countered with, “I sat in the park then walked one block and sat on that bench in side the municipality where people often sit all day long, and then…” Jody laughed, a true partner in these mosquito-born illnesses.
Linda, a friend at El Matal, has endured many of the same symptoms, and we’ve compared stories quite often. The pain in her shoulders was quite severe, but she – like another friend Pat, has been quite stoic with her suffering. We all have good days and not-so-good days.
My friend Ximena endured a week of fatigue and weakness, recovered, and then battled more fatigue and arthritis pain in the joints, especially her ankles. Another friend, Chana, continues to battle fatigue and painful hands and ankles.
I first saw the doctor about five days after the first fever (103); I was feeling much better, and my temperature was normal. The doctor shrugged and said that I had a virus. She ordered the standard blood test, and I returned the next day for the lab work and follow-up visit. I was surprised to see the IGg and IGM dengue antibody test results said, “Negativo/Negativo.” (Which suggested that I had never had dengue fever.)
“If what I had in the year 2000 was not dengue, and dengue is worse than that, I don’t ever want to have dengue fever,” I pondered.
The doctor looked at the second (painful) rash on my chest and quickly diagnosed, “Chikungunya.” I chuckled and thought, “Welcome to the Chikungunya Club!” I was feeling well.
As instructed by the doctors, I returned in five days for a checkup-blood test. The doctor looked at the results and said, “There’s one number here (HCTO)that’s higher and suggests dengue. Let’s run another dengue test in two days.”
Those test results confirmed ‘Dengue positivo/Dengue positivo.’ “Well, maybe I did not have chikungunya after all!”
But later, those classic pains in the joints seemed to worsen instead of improve. Judging by others who walk with the same distorted postures, we all assume that we’re elite members of the chikungunya club.
My side effects ebbed and flowed for several weeks. Some were surely fever related: headache, sensitivity to light, eye pain, throbbing pulse in my head, extreme weakness. Others were due to the body’s reaction to the virus (?) or the virus’s attack on the body – inability to hold simple objects (too heavy) — back pain, foot pain when walking, swollen lymph nodes… a touch of vertigo and mental slowness…nausea, lack of appetite, tender abdomen… weepy eyes.. puffy face and hands… days of feeling almost 100 percent and days of feeling as if strapped by G forces to the bed.
A second round of fever, not as high as the first struck on week two… more rashes (I had three different types over a two-week period.) Sleep, delicious sleep was a gift, and my extreme thirst kept me disciplined to drink lots of liquids. I craved coconut water and drank lots. Papaya and pineapple provided equally-soothing blended drinks.
There were days of feeling so great that I considered going for a jog.; I wisely stayed home and continued to rest. A different sort of pain settled in the ankles – youch – flexing the ankles was extremely painful, and going down the stairs was a challenge. I often pondered, “Do I REALLY want to go down the stairs?” Stepping up or down when crossing a street was difficult and painful. I waddled across the room as if my ankles were welded in place. My wrists, ankles and shoulders hurt, but only when I moved them. Otherwise I was pain free. Chikungunya definitely has earned its nasty reputation and now presides with dengue as a mosquito-born virus to avoid.
Here are a few links of interest:
I greatly appreciated Dr. Richard Mata’s website and wished I had read his advice at the beginning of my illness. Here’s his preface:
My name is Dr. Richard Mata, I’m a Pediatrician by profession. For 12 years now my practice is focused in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, Philippines. My area has almost always been a Dengue epidemic area, thus, caring for Dengue patients have become almost an everyday task.
For the years of exposure, I noticed a lot of things that I haven’t read in the books which I would like to share to concerned persons worldwide through this website. I do believe in one way or the other this will open a lot of eyes on the truth about this dreaded disease and somehow save lots of lives.
These are the following important learnings and observations:
To read his suggestions and observations, go here: “Overview of Dengue Fever” by Richard Mata MD, DPPS -A Practicing Pediatrician in a Dengue Prevalent Area.
The CDC has published some insightful material; Scott B. Halstead shares well-researched stories that cover epidemics in the Americas in the 1800’s, one in New Orleans in 1828.
“In New Orleans, the disease “spread was so rapid among the inhabitants that in eight or ten days at least one third of the population was laboring under its influence, including persons of all ages and different sexes” (6). Dumaresq goes on to say,
“A person on the disappearance of this fever would attempt to rise from bed, feeling not much loss of strength, and a consciousness of being able to move about and attend to a little to business; but how egregiously would he be mistaken when he assumed the upright posture! The joints felt as if fettered or anchylosed, and the advance of one foot or leg beyond the other, would cost more pain and effort than the purpose for which it may have been advanced was worth, —aye,—a thousand times told!”
Halstead’s artical can be found here: Reappearance of Chikungunya, Formerly Called Dengue, in the Americas
An “Emerging Infectious Diseases” article written in March 2015 spotlights a worse-case scenario where an artist suffered lingering side effects from the chikungunya virus.
“Although the proportion of patients with chronic disease has decreased, post-chikungunya chronic inflammatory rheumatism, mostly rheumatoid arthritis, develops in ≈5% of these patients”
That article can be found here: Post Chikungunya Rheumatoid Arthritis
This link (from last week’s post) breaks down the typical stages of chikungunya then provides an easy-to-read chart. ABOUT CHIKUNGUNYA-ARTHRITIS
A comment for moderation came through last week that intrigued me. Larry Griffin shared a story of developing sublingual tablets which also have helped relieve some of the dengue and chikungunya side effects.
“It must be made very clear that Virapress does nothing for the disease itself, it only allows the bodies immune system to do what it was created to do, allow a balance between the disease and the immune system!”
Scroll down to his comment, whch summarizes the history of ‘Virapress.’ Soon I will post a follow-up email I received from him today, but his contact information is included at the end of the comment: Virapress – Larry Griffin- USA
The most unique case involving chikungunya that I’ve heard (or read) comes from my friends in San Clemente Ecuador. Take time to read John MacDonald’s story, Hit by Chikungunya and Modern Day Miracles.
As if we don’t have enough mosquitoes to dodge, there is now a new virus on the block: Zika. Here’s a report from Costa Rica’s Tico Times: ZIKA WHO?
Anyone who has endured the stages of the arthritic side effects will surely agree, “Keep up with the stats for your area. Wear your mosquito repellent if your area has any reports of dengue or chikungunya illness.”
If any of you have been sick with either illness, please share your story! What was the worst part, what relieved your symptoms, etc. Your story might help others who are searching for answers and will give comfort that they’re not alone. Z