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Posted 25 Sep, 2014 | 36 Comments
Posted in: Grenada, Our Story, Travel Blogs

This Tuesday started like any other Tuesday in Grenada. We woke up, enjoyed a light breakfast and then brewed a pot of coffee to take with us to our upstairs office, where we planned to work for the day. We sat down at the computers and began plugging away. Before long, the sun was creeping into the large screened windows and I was starting to get hot. I took off my shirt to cool down and that’s when Dariece saw it…

A massive rash was covering my entire body. We both knew what this meant instantly. Chikungunya has become somewhat of an epidemic here in Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean. It’s a mosquito-borne illness similar to Dengue Fever and Malaria and the symptoms include an itchy rash, followed by headaches, high fevers, joint pain, nausea, insomnia, vomiting and diarrhea.

Nick's Chikungunya Rash

The virus enters the bloodstream when a mosquito bites the skin and it attaches itself to the white blood cells, then multiplies as it moves through the body. It attacks and infects the epithelial and endothelial cells, primary fibroblasts and monocyte-derived macrophages which causes the immense pain and swelling in the joints, knuckles and connective tissues.

This is not something I was looking forward to enduring, but Dariece doesn’t have a licence to drive in Grenada so we both knew that if we didn’t go get the medication right away, we’d be stranded at home without the drugs we needed to fight off this terrible virus.

So, we hopped in the truck and headed straight for the nearest hospital. We were in to see a doctor within a half an hour. He took one look at the rash and told me that I had Chikungunya and that all I could do is take antihistamine for the rash, and paracetamol and ibuprofen for the immense joint pain and headaches that were sure to follow. He smiled and told me I wasn’t alone. It was only noon and I was already his 25th case of the day!

We headed back home, ready for the onslaught that was on its way. It was a weird feeling because up until that point the only symptom I had was the rash. No fever, no headaches, no joint pain… but that was all going to change soon.

I fell asleep and woke up a couple of hours later. My joints were beginning to ache and I was running a fever of almost 40°C (104°F). I was thankful for Dariece’s health because she was taking good care of me… until I noticed a rash all over her body. Chikungunya isn’t contagious but it is likely that we were both bitten by the same infected mosquito. Looks like we were going to have to face this one together!

Dariece's Chikungunya Rash

The sickness hit us both hard and by the middle of the night we were both fighting off terrible fevers. But by far the worst part of this sickness is the joint pain. I say is and not was because I sit here writing this post, over a week after contracting the virus, and my limbs and joints are still stiff and sore.

That first night was the worst. We both fought our fevers continuously, taking our pills like clockwork to try to limit the swelling, pain, and high temperatures. The joint cramps intensified and it felt like the slightest bend would cause the cartilage to crack. If I bent my elbow for just a minute and then straightened it out, it felt as though I had slept on it for an hour, so stiff was the joint. My knuckles were so tender that it felt as though I’d been clenching my fists for days on end, and my knees felt like they’d been bent backwards.

The fevers abruptly subsided after 48 hours and all that remained was the brutal rash, headaches and the discomfort of the joints. The aching limbs hadn’t gotten at all better after 5 days and the rash seemed to be getting worst, the constant itch making it almost impossible to rest at night.

Another symptom of the illness is insomnia and Dariece and I both experienced entire nights without any sleep. Most of our tossing and turning was probably a direct result of the horrible and ongoing symptoms. We did everything we could to fight off the pain. We forced back the brutally bitter local remedies of papaya and soursop leaves and lemon grass tea, but nothing seemed to ease our ailments.

Papaya Leaf, Soursop Leaf and Lemon Grass

Today, more than 8 days after first seeing those awful rashes, we’re still feeling the pain in our joints, enduring the itch from our skin legions and don’t have much energy.

So far we consider ourselves lucky. Many people have complained of joint pain so bad that they cry out in agony as their elbows, knees and ankles swell to twice their normal size. Some people have had fevers of over 41°C, while others have even died from the virus. Our joint pain, while still prevalent, is definitely subsiding now, but other patients have complained of the aches and swelling carrying on for months or even years! One of our readers sent us some helpful tips on kicking the virus, and she had it far worse than us… just read her account here!

Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen to us!

While this was a nasty virus and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, we’re happy that we didn’t have it as bad as so many other suffering people in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Perhaps our previous sicknesses have helped to prepare our bodies for the sudden onslaught of an unwanted viral intruder. Whatever the case may be, we’re both very happy to be on the mend and we hope to be back up and out of this damn bed soon!

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Our Bout With The Dreaded Chikungunya

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36 thoughts on “Our Bout With The Dreaded Chikungunya

  1. Hey, Guys … I’m really hoping you have Chikungunya-lite version. I hate to break the news, but I heard from a woman in St. Martin who caught it in Feb. and is still experiencing joint pain! But there are others who haven’t had it as bad. You just never know. Interesting that you had the rash first before the fevers and the joint pain. Mine began with fever that went away in two days, followed by rash a few days later that lasted for 24 hours then the joint pain began about 5 days later (although I didn’t get swollen joints, just pain and numbness in my arms and hands). My friend who came down with it after returning to Canada agreed with me – you dread going to bed at night, because you know what you are in for and it won’t be pleasant.

    Anyway, crazy, crazy virus, and let’s hope that by talking about it we raise awareness of what’s happening in the Caribbean.

    Susan Toy

    1. HI Susan,

      No matter who we talk to in Grenada, they’ve had it, or have it! Such an epidemic right now all across the Caribbean. I can’t believe how long you’ve been feeling the effects for. We’re much better, but still don’t have full energy back and a few sore joints.

      Get well 🙂

  2. I’ve never heard of this virus before. Those symptoms sound incredibly intense. And it’s unbelievable that it’s so widespread in the Caribbean and I’ve never heard about it. I’m so glad to hear the two of you are are on the mend. And let’s hope that joint pain goes away very soon!!

  3. Hi Guys,

    Feel better!

    Sending my healing energies your way. This is no joke; and I’d never heard of the virus. Knowing this if I did Grenada, especially with the prevalence, I’d likely be doing the long sleeve thing top and bottom much of the time. Virtually impossible to keep mosquitoes away as I’ve learned doing the long sleeve thing can protect our skin……until…..I would say…..screw that it’s too hot lol….and go back to no shirt, and shorts 😉

    I imagine it was so painful. Any joint issues can be excruciating. So happy you guys are out of the toughest part of this illness, and I wish you a rapid recovery.

    Tweeting in a bit.

    Ryan

  4. I’m so sorry guys that you underwent such a painful experience. The only positive thing – now you have life-long immunity. 🙂 I wish you full and speedy recovery, so that you’ll be soon ready for your next travel adventure. D.

  5. So sorry you are having to endure this. I have been following the news on chikungunya and wondering what the islands can do to try to eradicate it, as it could have a negative impact on tourism to the Caribbean. Were you both using mosquito repellent and trying to take precautions so you would not get mosquito bites, or is it just impossible to avoid being bitten? I am wondering what you would suggest to tourists planning to visit Grenada or other islands in the near future. Thanks, and all the best for full recoveries without lingering joint pain!

    1. the governments are “fogging” areas with mosquitoes to try to kill them off. They’re implementing fines to people who have mosquito breeding grounds on their property (bowls, overturned coconuts, buckets, etc. are great places for mozzies to breed when filled with water).

      Wearing repellent all day is a must. Sleeping under a mozzy net helps and wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk as well. Dengue Fever has always been here, and I think Chikungunya seems more scary now because it’s new to the region – this virus is all over Asia and so is Dengue Fever and malaria in parts. That doesn’t stop people from visiting Thailand every year!

      Happy travels and thanks for commenting 🙂

  6. Oh please!!!! My husband and I have tickets to come to Grenada Oct 9-16 to visit our kids.. Should we scrap our plans, in deference to the mosquitoes; or is there hope we can make it for a week without catching it. You make it sound inevitable just by breathing. Are we foolish to even consider going to Grenada next week? Thanks for your experienced reply.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      I would hate to deter anyone from visiting lovely Grenada! Have your kids contracted Chikungunya yet? My father and his wife were here for two weeks, ending September 1st and neither of them got sick. You would have to take all of the necessary precautions though:

      Sleep under a mozzy net
      Wear mosquito spray basically all day
      Wear long sleeves and pants in the a.m and the p.m.
      We use mosquito coils and spray our room with bug killer spray

      Don’t cancel 🙂

  7. Hi Guys,

    I just came over from your interview at Ryan’s blog. My gosh, that is some brutal stuff you are going through. I hope this finds you on the mend.

    What you are doing is wonderful…traveling all over the place and living that laptop lifestyle. Your blog is proof that one can live and travel. Getting away from being tied down. I never could understand that job thing. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life and wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Now with the internet, one can travel so easily and I commend both of you for spreading the word!

    -Donna

    1. Well said Donna!
      Why work in one place? These days, work isn’t a place, it’s just something you can do from anywhere. “I’m going to work” doesn’t actually mean we’re going to a physical building, it just means we’re opening up the laptop! Love it 🙂

      You’re living the dream as well, good for you and keep spreading the word!

      Thank you for your comment – oh, and we’re on the mend from the Chikungunya, thank you.

  8. Greetings- I stumbled on your blog as I am also suffering from chikengunya since October 2014. Hoping you can provide some insight into how you feel now? What helped etc.
    Hoping to hear from you.
    Thanks,

    1. Hi Shannon,

      I’m sorry to hear that you came down with Chikungunya 🙁 That’s awful. It’s been 5 months since we had it and for me personally, the bones in my feet are still stiff and sore when I sit for awhile, they take a few seconds to get limber again! Everyone reacts and heals differently. There’s nothing really that you can do apart from staying fit and doing exercise to keep flexible, and keep the joints from stiffening up.

      Sorry! Hope you get better soon.

  9. Hi, I found your blog while looking for information about the after effects of the chinkungunya. Im sorry to hear you got it and that you got the rash too.

    I wanted to see if anyone had a similar case to mine. I am a 22 yo woman, fairly healthy, only had some pain before in my life related to a scoliosis problem I have, and some of my joints would hurt now and then. Anyway, I live in the caribbean, in Puerto Rico, and last year I traveled to the Dominican Republic(my country) and got the virus in July. I did not get the rash, but I did get the fever, and of course the pain. The first day I got the pain I couldnt even hold a cup or a spoon to eat, it was awful and really painful. After that, I got pain in one ankle, couldnt walk well, and it continued like that for a while until pain was gone. But the pain came back some weeks after that and has continued coming back sporadically. Now, it is not the kind of pain that makes me cry but it does worries me. Its been 8 months since I got bitten and the pain doesnt stop. Sometimes its just one part of the body(my wrists and ankles more often) but some other times, like today, it spreads throughout a side of my body, from the ankle to my neck and it really hurts. Now I dont only feel it in my joints, but muscles too, and I cant find anything about that online. One thing though, I mentioned my pain before the virus because doctors have said that the chinkungunya usually worsens problems that one already has, and joint pain was always a problem for me, now only worse. Hope you guys are better, if you have found any remedies, please share.

    1. Oh no, that’s awful to hear that you’re in so much pain! Dominican Republic was hit the hardest I think with the virus. I still have some pain in my foot, but only if I sit still and then try to walk again, but it goes away almost instantly.

      I don’t have any solutions for you, so sorry 🙁 I hope you get better!

  10. Hi! I’m not from USA, and I’ll tell you my story with this virus: I caught this awful disease on my country. Apparently, it’s spreading a lot in here. I had two days of high fever and I stayed with excruciating joint pains during eight months. I don’t had the skin rash, but I losed 7 (seven) kg! It was so awful! Sorry if you found any writing error, it’s because my English isn’t very good!

  11. I had an all natural product created which improves the immune system. I created it to help my girlfriend with pulmonary fibrosis. She was told to go home and die. She started Virapress, the name of the product, in 2010 and has no progression of the disease. I came out of retirement to make Virapress available for various all autoimmune and viral diseases. I have a customer in Honduras who has been using Virapress for Dengue and just called in a large order for Chikungunya. Seeing 5-6 patients per day. If you are having the arthritic type pain that can develop after the flu like symptoms have eased, I would like to provide you with some free Virapress to see how it works on the pain. I have 30 years of studies as to successes with viruses and autoimmune diseases including double blind placebo controlled studies
    .Please e-mail me at [email protected] or call me at 951 223-4055 in Southern California. I can e-mail you the whole story of Virapress and our own successes with viruses and autoimmune disease including dengue and chikungunya.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Larry Griffin, Founder and President of bio-Stasis Int. Inc. Co-creator and distributor of Virapress

  12. A search brought me here, though I am almost finished with the dreaded dengue/chikungunya viruses… I’m wondernig if you had a short respite from the initial pain and then suffered again from round two about 20 or more days later.. I’m just recovering from round two.

    You really suffered, and I am lucky that my various pains were not so bad.

  13. A search brough me here as well. I’m on day 14 of Chikungunya. Five days of high fever, chills and horrendous headache and back pain, then moved into a rash and nerve pain with itching, then more rash with more terrible itching. I just began prednisone and am taking Atarax for the itching. Not much helps and I’m still not getting much sleep. Anyone else have itching for over a week? If so, what helped you?

    1. Ellen, I’m interested to hear where you were when you contracted Chikungunya. We on Bequia all thought that the virus had run its course, but I have been corresponding with a tourist from the UK who came down with it when he was visiting the island this past July (2015). His doctors back in the UK had no idea what was wrong or how to treat it, and when he went public with his situation on Tripadvisor, his thought that this was possibly Chikungunya was dismissed by posters there, because “The virus has run its course and there have been no reported cases since Oct. 2014.” Besides, someone added, news like this will destroy our tourist industry … Imagine how this man felt, trying to find answers to what was making him feel so sick, yet being pushed off to the side by people who were more concerned about tourist dollars! By the way, he told me he was very cautious about guarding against mosquito bites while he was here, yet he was still bitten. It’s impossible to stop all the mosquitoes. (And the government’s attempts to fog and kill the mosquito population just seemed to eradicate the honey bees, from what we observed.)

      I hope you are seeking medical attention, Ellen. I don’t have any comforting words for you, I’m afraid. You are still in the very early days of the virus, in my estimation, and there isn’t much you can take for any of the symptoms. At least, that was my experience. Insomnia is part of the package, whether it’s caused by incessant itching or other symptoms, and the most effective means of dealing with the virus is still to rest. As we said here on Bequia, just when you think you’re getting over Chikungunya, rest some more.

      It’s now been a year and four months since I first contracted it and, I hate to tell you but … I am still not 100% recovered. My right shoulder, where I first noticed the joint pain, still bothers me from time to time. It’s like a burning sensation right in the bone. And, since I returned to Bequia last week for the winter. I’ve noticed I’m incredibly tired again – weary, I have to say. Now, that could just be me acclimatizing back into the tropics, once again. But I do think it’s still all part and parcel of the Chikungunya. We were told at the time the virus was raging through the Caribbean that symptoms can last one to two years. Thank goodness we’re at least immune now from ever catching it again. Small mercy.

      So, Ellen, if you contracted the virus in a place you were visiting and are now home, please do be sure to report back to the health officials that you now have Chikungunya. It’s very important that all the Caribbean islands realize the virus is not finished and that visitors still need to be warned to be cautious when travelling here.

      I wish you a speedy recovery and hope what you’ve contracted is the “lite” version.

      Susan Toy

      1. Thanks so much Susan! It turns out I was misdiagnosed and my final tests came back reporting I had Dengue Fever (The viruses are very similar in some ways and are often misdiagnosed if only going by symptoms.)! With minutes of getting my test results, the health department in my county called me and made a report. I’m on my 7th week after initially getting sick and have learned that I need to continue to pace myself due to quite a bit of fatigue. Wishing you the best as you continue to heal.

  14. Thank you Susan. It turns out from my final bloodwork that I had Dengue Fever. -The symptoms are quite similar to Chikungunya. I’m sorry you’re still having Chik-related issues. I’m still continuing to feel very tired and the skin on my feet has been beeling, so you gave a good reminder to take things easy and pace myself.

  15. I had got Chikangunya around 20 days ago from San Juan Del Sur. I think i either got a mild case, or that my yoga/meditation seriousy helped reduce the symptoms. I also fasted for the first three days of the sickness and only ate watermelon a few days following that.
    Fiirst three days for me were a huge fever and sore joints so bad that i couldnt walk properly. Fourth day was 50% better and the next day i resumed a mellow version of my daiy yoga practice. By the sixh day my fever was gone and my joints would be painful upon waking but fine after yoga.
    Then i got a rash and the insomnia. Couldnt sleep properly for three more days and after that went im now almost 100% cured!
    Some days i feel a little fatigued and some days my foot is sore when i wake but apart from that im good!
    So it doesnt always have to be sooo bad,i guess i got really lucky.

  16. I’m here a little late, but I was also searching for a site about Chikungunya. I live in Mexico now and have had Hemorrhagic Dengue and, just recently, Chikungunya. It’s been two years since the dengue and about 8 weeks since the Chikungunya and it seems as if I have arthritis everywhere now. I’m thinking it’s due to having both within just a few years of each other, but that’s just a guess. Although I was very ill with the Chikungunya, it was primarily the fever, rash, pain, and my stomach. I don’t have stomach issues, ever, but it felt like someone was punching me repeatedly, very tender, nauseas, and painful, but that went away, thankfully. However, I’m hoping to hear these arthritic symptoms aren’t permanent? Since it’s been about two years since you first wrote this, wondering if you still have joint pain? (And, if you see a mosquito, do you go crazy chasing it around the house like I do?) Thanks for writing this, nice to talk with folks who know of what I speak 🙂

  17. We know that the female mosquitoes need the protein in blood to develop their eggs. During the monsoon, pools of water provide a perfect breeding place; but even vases, planters and small amounts of water are fine for breeding. Female mosquitoes that are infected with the Chikungunya virus, that is all too prevalent in India, bite humans, drink their blood and thus infect them with the virus, causing the Chikungunya fever and diseases.should be taken to the doctor/hospital upon suspicion of Chikungunya, Viral antigens have been detected in the muscle biopsy of a person suffering recurrent severe episodes of Chikungunya symptoms, three months after the first episode. Hence although not normally life-threatening Chikungunya can cause distressing, debilitating and even disabling symptoms: particularly in the already weak, ailing or elderly persons. Avoiding suck symptoms and situations is obviously a priority, as symptoms can be alleviated till the virus gets out of the system.Prevention, it is said, is better than cure. In this case of this painful infection, it would be essential to get a complete mosquito-control program completed yearly from a professional pest control service provider and stay safe from the many diseases causing viruses spread by mosquitoes. Otherwise, be prepared for doctors and Chikungunya treatment.

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