Who will rescue us from CHIKV?Monday, November 17, 2014
BY MICHAEL AIKEN
We're still waiting to be rescued...I weep, seized by grief. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no doctor in the house? So why can't something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people? (Jeremiah 8:20-22, The Message and NKJV)
I don't know how many of us are still waiting to be rescued from this dreadful Chikungunya (CHIKV) virus. What I do know is that almost everyone I know claim they currently have or have had the chikungunya virus, and we all seem to know someone who has died from CHIKV-RELATED COMPLICATIONS. We have to start rescuing ourselves!
I am just emerging from my own dreadful season of battling chikungunya. It devastated me physically. I am a Sickler (someone with Sickle Cell Disease) and I experienced both first-phase and second-phase CHIKV. It's true, the second phase is indescribably worse than the first! My family and friends feared for my life as I went through that relapse phase. I am thankful to God for all who rallied around me with papaya leaf, bissy, turmeric, Voltarin, Panadol, juice and love. As a result of my experience, I have been reading as much as I can about CHIKV from formal medical sources and informal ones.
Good News! A balm for CHIKV?
Encouraging news for those of us afflicted (or yet to be), is that we can rescue ourselves from this terrible virus with a combination of immune system boosters and joint care homeopathic "balms" such as, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, leaf of life, papaya leaf, bissy, turmeric, echinacea, golden seal and gelsemium. If the unbearable symptoms still hit you, then we are told to apply acetaminophen, antihistamines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
A word of advice for those of us who are "fighters"! Don't fight this. Just rest and "juice up"! I made the mistake of getting up after the first episode of pain and fever and going to church and the gym to "fight" it off. It made it worse. I am told by other "fighters" that they had the same experience. It seems as if this virus was designed to slow down and incapacitate persons who have a military or athletic kind of attitude.
Bad News! No end in sight?
Discouraging news is that Dr James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carphaa), disclosed that even though chikungunya cases are approaching about one million cases in the Caribbean, the spread of the virus has yet to peak. The USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backs up Dr Hospedales with a warning that "the chikungunya outbreak in Caribbean and Central and South American countries continues to spread with no sign of slowing down". That means we are to expect many more infections and deaths until we develop what medical experts call "herd immunity".
So, with no end in sight, take careful note: If you are a parent or caregiver of very young children and the elderly, or if you have pre-existing medical conditions, such as sickle cell anaemia, arthritis, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease or if you haven't yet got CHIKV, do all you can to avoid it! Seriously.
How many sick or dead?
In all my reading so far, I cannot find any numbers representing how many of us in Jamaica have been afflicted or how many have died. Can anyone tell me? Mutabaruka, on his radio programme, expressed his unofficial belief that at least 200 Jamaicans have died as a result of this virus entering the island. He was rather perturbed that we were not warned that the virus could have fatal consequences. Jamaica's Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson coyly revealed that the virus is now spreading to Western Jamaica. He validated officially what we already know, but he is yet to reveal accurate numbers regarding those of us afflicted or dead. The CDC website offers no help either.
Could CHIKV eliminate a million?
So let's see if we can figure out this CHIKV's potential to cause harm. Our Jamaican population is 2.7 million. Of that amount, reportedly eight per cent of us have Sickle Cell Anaemia, that's approximately 216,000 people; 7.8 per cent have arthritis, that's another 210,000; 28.9 per cent have hypertension, that's a massive 810,000 people; 17.2 per cent suffer with diabetes, that's an added 464,400 people; 13.3 per cent (North American Journal of Medical Science, December 2009) have asthma, that's 359,100 people; and another untold large percentage are afflicted with heart disease. These are all chronic illnesses that chikungunya can make worse or even fatal.
So let's do the math? That's over two million people at risk of increased distress, anguish and trauma, unable to do our respective jobs to make sure Jamaica becomes the place to live, work, raise families and do business.
Of those 2,059,500 'at risk' people, let's subtract the 210,000 arthritis sufferers, the number we are left with are those who possibly could die from this dreadful chikungunya virus because of pre-existing medical conditions. That's potentially 1,849,500 of us for whom this virus could cause fatal complications. Take note that I have not counted our coronary heart disease citizens, because neither the Heart Disease Foundation nor our Ministry of Health can tell me the number of Jamaicans in that category. All I have heard is that it's a lot!
Let's rescue ourselves!
So, while we worry and prepare for Ebola, we may already have in our midst a virus that could devastate us, if not controlled. Isn't it time therefore to pull together to rescue ourselves from this virus?
We have 2.6 million Jamaican relatives abroad. What if, as we clean our infested areas and utilise our local medicines, we ask them to source and send as many of the abovementioned nutritional items as possible? Especially those not readily available or which are too expensive in Jamaica? What if, in tandem with the hoped-for positive response of our Diaspora, our Ministry of Health and Customs administrators play their part by allowing in these medicines "en mass" at no cost or very minimal cost to us. Any other possible solutions, anyone?
If we don't, rescue ourselves, the continued loss of livelihood (calculated so far at 13 million man-hours and $6 billion) and the continued loss of life could become incalculable and devastating to this Jamaica, land we love! May God help us!