Saturday , May 27 2023

Account of a chikungunya infection

Caribisch Netwerk published the story of Michelle da Costa Gomez from Curacao who contracted chikungunya. She shares her experiences:

It began on 23 July. That day, I felt  a bit queasy. The next day in the morning, working I worked on the computer. Around noon I got a headache. I decided to lie down for an hour. Then really hell broke loose.

I was convinced that I had dengue because I had joint pain and high fever. I did not immediately think of chikungunya.

A throbbing headache centered behind my eyes. It reminded me of migraine. In addition, all the joints in my body started to hurt and, within a few hours, I had a fever that rose to about 39 degrees Celsius. Walking was nearly impossible. The joints in my ankles were ‘fixed’. A walk of a distance of only five feet to the bathroom took more than five minutes. Also the joints in my knees, hips, wrists and fingers were sore. That lasted for three days.

At the advice of the physician, I took paracetamol. It helped a bit for reducing the pain. On the fourth day there seemed to be some relief coming. The fever had dropped to a slightly increased temperature. The pain in the joints seemed to be less and the headache was almost completely gone.

But then, on day five, the rash came. From top to bottom, my body was covered with itchy red bumps. The rash lasted two days, but then my skin was still three days sensitive and painful, especially in the sunlight.

When the rash disappeared, the pain in the joints returned in full force. Although I rested continuously, I felt tired. Then my husband and our four year old daughter caught the disease. My daughter got the symptoms about a week after symptoms had started with me and my husband a few days later. In both cases, the sequence of reactions were exactly the same as with me. 

We went to the doctor with our daughter because her fever went over 40 degrees. The physician immediately filled out a form for a blood test at the lab. I had blood tests taken twice. The first time, one week after the start of the disease, but, at that time, be no diagnosis could be determined from the blood image.  The doctor indicated, that the disease could only be identified when it had disappeared and antibodies were found in the blood. So only at the second test, chikungunya was diagnosed with me.

Now we are now exactly three months later. The pain in the joints is still not completely gone until today. One day is better than the other, but periodically I’m still experiencing stiff ankles.  If I work at the computer for a few days, I can hardly move my fingers. True, every week I experience less trouble.

According to the doctor, it may take up to a year before the joint pains disappear. However, sometimes and in particular with elderly persons, the pains could stay for the rest of their lives.

Now, our daughter experiences almost no pain in her joints anymore, but my husband’s complains still continue. He experiences, that standing for an extended period or walking long distances is still very painful. Now I know that the incubation period is between two and twelve days.

Tiger Mosquito that could cause chikungunya infection
Tiger Mosquito that could cause chikungunya infection

As preventative action, we have cleaned up around our house everything that could contain water containers in which mosquitoes could lay their eggs. I think that everyone should do so, as, ultimately, prevention is the only thing that really helps.


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