The mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus has been spreading rapidly throughout the tropics and today is present virtually everywhere from 20˚ North to 20˚ South of the Equator, and in many places well North and South of the Equatorial Zone as well. (See map below) It threatens to make tropical vacations for pasty-white SnowBirds a thing of the past, and it is decimating indigenous populations in the tropics. Its debilitating effects can last a lifetime, and those most at risk are newborns and the elderly.
(On left – Ae. aegypti; On right – Ae._albopictus)
This extraordinarily painful viral infection, with an long list of very dangerous potential side-effects, is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that carry Dengue Fever – which also appropriately known as “Bone-Break Fever”. Dengue Fever causes pain in the deep tissues and joints that is as severe as that of a broken bone, and by all accounts Chikungunya is even worse.
There is no cure and no really effective treatment and the really bad news is that for some people who contract the disease, especially those over 65, the pain can last for months and in some cases, forever.
So, what does it do, and what does it feel like?
According to the Centers For Disease Control “The majority of people infected with chikungunya virus become symptomatic. The incubation period is typically 3–7 days (range, 1–12 days). The disease is most often characterized by acute onset of fever (typically >39°C [102°F]) and polyarthralgia. Joint symptoms are usually bilateral and symmetric, and can be severe and debilitating.”
“Other symptoms may include headache, myalgia, arthritis, conjunctivitis, nausea/vomiting, or maculopapular rash. Clinical laboratory findings can include lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, elevated creatinine, and elevated hepatic transaminases.”
“Acute symptoms typically resolve within 7–10 days. Rare complications include uveitis, retinitis, myocarditis, hepatitis, nephritis, bullous skin lesions, hemorrhage, meningoencephalitis, myelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and cranial nerve palsies.”
“Persons at risk for severe disease include neonates exposed intrapartum, older adults (e.g., > 65 years), and persons with underlying medical conditions – e.g., hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. (Planning a Caribbean retirement cruise? Taking the grandchildren?)
Some patients might have relapse of rheumatologic symptoms (e.g., polyarthralgia, polyarthritis, tenosynovitis) in the months following acute illness. Studies report variable proportions of patients with persistent joint pains for months to years. Mortality is rare and occurs mostly in older adults.” (So who really cares?)
“Chronic pain can affect mood in patients wanting to return to a pre-Chikungunya quality of life.” (Don’t you love it? Chronic pain can affect your mood. OMG!)
There is really no protection. Check out what CDC recommends to “protect” yourself:
1. Use air conditioning or window/door screens
2. Use mosquito repellents on exposed skin
3. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
4. Wear permethrin-treated clothing
5. Empty standing water from outdoor containers
6. Support local vector control programs
Thank you, Oh Wise Ones. How about – stay away from the tropics? Well, it seems that isn’t going to work either because lo and behold, Chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes have already begun appearing as far North as Alaska and as far South as South Africa, for example.
And of course if you are one of the millions of poor people living in the Caribbean, Africa, SE Asia and elsewhere in the tropics, you be sure to get yourself into some air-conditioning, wear permethrin-treated long sleeved shirts and pants, get rid of that standing water, and support your local vector control programs, y’all hear?
The final bit of disturbing news about this nasty virus is that when an uninfected mosquito (any species) feeds on the blood of an infected person (or other warm-blooded mammal) it becomes a carrier and transmits the virus to everyone that it subsequently dines on.
I’m offering all this gruesome news (and gratuitous snide comments) as a preface to saying – and I know that you are ahead of me here dear reader – that I think it is likely, and even probable – that the painful, dangerous, even life-threatening symptoms of Chikungunya, that can’t be cured much less effectively restrained by any currently available medications- the best advice seems to be take a tylenol and grit your teeth – could be effectively treated with Coca Leaf tea, perhaps with a few additional anti-inflammatory herbs like Nettles thrown into the teapot for good measure.
The reason that this makes sense to me is that, as I have pointed out in this blog here, and here, here, here, and here – one of the many powerful healing powers of Coca Leaf is its whole-body anti-inflammatory properties. It is well-known in Peru and Bolivia, as it was well-known in 18th and 19th Century European and American medicine, to be a specific cure for inflammatory diseases like Arthritis/Rheumatism, and of course it is a specific for joint pain relief, which is where Chikungunya wrecks its greatest havoc.
So the good news is that if Chikungunya ever spreads as far South as Peru or Bolivia the Indigenous Peoples will be well-protected by Mama Coca. The bad news is, of course, that anybody in the Northern or Southern Hemispheres who visits the tropics, like on a Caribbean vacation or cruise, and who contracts this evil disease, is just going to have to suffer. Your governments have decreed it, and you will just have to suck it up and obey. But what the hell – CDC says it isn’t fatal except for geezers, it just makes you wish you were dead. So stop complaining and go file for disability. Or, get out there and change the laws just the way as you are doing with Cannabis. It’s your choice.