Nick and Dariece | September 21, 2015 9:00 PM ET
How to Deal With the Chikungunya Virus While Traveling
Photos by Goats on the Road
Last year during the Ebola virus scare, there was another epidemic terrorizing the Caribbean, but its severity was somewhat overshadowed by Africa's deadly plague. This doesn't mean that Chikungunya (aka Chik-V) wasn't serious.
While the virus has started to run its course and is far less prevalent in the Caribbean than it was at this time last year, there have been over 1,000 recorded cases in the Marshall Islands and parts of the North Pacific recently. It's definitely worth being aware of the virus if you're planning to travel to the Caribbean, Oceania or any affected areas.
In this article, we'll run through the basic symptoms and treatments so that you can better prepare yourself in the event that you come into contact with this debilitating mosquito virus.
This is often the first thing you'll notice if you've contracted Chik-V. An itchy and uncomfortable rash will cover your entire body. The rash generally lasts about three to five days and it can make it very difficult to get a good night's rest.
The Treatment: Over-the-counter antihistamines can help with the itching, and rubbing aloe or lotion on the affected areas can also offer some relief, but in my experience, this rash is so uncomfortable that nothing can really take your mind off of it.
At the height of my illness, I had a fever of 103 degrees. While Chik-V isn't generally fatal, this fever can be very scary. Luckily it only usually lasts for about 48 hours, during which time it's important to rest and get lots of sleep.
The Treatment: Regular fever suppressants are the main thing that are going to help reduce the fever. Otherwise you can try cooling yourself off with cold towels and air conditioning. Some people claim that Papaya Leaf Tea can help the fever, but be sure not to drink too much as the tea can lower your blood pressure.
The Joint Pain
This really is the worst part of Chik-V. Pain and inflammation of the joints generally starts within the first 24 hours of diagnosis and can last upwards of two years!
Yes, you read that correctly — two years.
While my joint pain only lasted three months, my wife still has pain in her feet nearly a year later. People with Chikungunya have been known to be completely debilitated by joint pain during the peak of the illness. This is why it is very important that you have friends and loved ones checking in on you every day. You need to have access to fresh water and if you're unable to walk, this is a very scary thing to deal with.
The Treatment: Advil, Tylenol and other painkillers are the only thing that are going to help your joints. Try to move them around a bit while you're in bed so that they don't lock up. Once the fever is gone, you can do some exercises to help keep your joints limber and loose and avoid long-term damage.
Chik-V is a mosquito-borne illness, so it's important to always sleep under a mosquito net and wear mosquito repellent when traveling in highly affected areas. Don't go out between the hours of dusk and dawn and make sure you see a doctor if you start having a rash or fever symptoms.
Recovery time for Chikungunya varies wildly between patients. We met some people who only had a mild fever and sore knuckles for a week, while others have been hospitalized for two weeks or more. Generally the fever is gone in 48 hours, but many people are left with the pain in their joints for a very long time.
Very few people outside of affected areas are even aware of this sickness, so it's important that you know about it before traveling to the Caribbean or any other area with a high risk of Chikungunya. Some people have fallen ill and have absolutely no idea what is happening to them. Hopefully this article will help you to recognize and properly deal with the symptoms. It may sound like a horrible illness, but it's not fatal and you'll get over it if you treat it properly.
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