Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chikungunya + Tonga

I'm not deliberately trying to avoid writing on this blog. I wish I had more to write about but recently my life has been filled with a little virus called chikungunya

Part of the living abroad experience includes getting introduced to all sorts of foreign microbes and hoping that your immune system gets strengthened in the process. 

[Side note: I'm hoping that the above statement is true and that I return to America with an immune system as strong as Thor because I'm so over being sick.]

A few weeks ago the students at my school (and teachers too) started talking about how their family members were coming down with the measles. I felt very sad for them but also felt a little bit of relief that I'd been vaccinated for measles before I came so I didn't have to worry about contracting them.

Turns out it wasn't measles. It's not something I even knew existed and three weeks ago I started showing systems of chikungunya. 

So what is it?
It's a nasty virus that is transmitted to humans via mosquitoes. 

It has various side effects. Some of the ones that I've experienced over the last 21 days are: 
  • Extreme joint pain. Especially in the hands/wrists, knees and feet (a few days ago it took me 20 minutes to type a 5 line email). The joint pain can last up to a few months depending on your age.
  • An acute fever. What does acute mean? Because I'm pretty sure I was rockin' a 104 degree fever at one point.
  • Rash. It's really red and itchy and when you look in the mirror it looks like you got slapped in the face a few times. Your nostrils swell up (didn't know they could do that).
  • Cold symptoms. (Runny nose, sore throat).
  • GI problems. Vomiting and fakalele (diarrhea). I don't need to go into detail here.
  •  Insomnia. Not sleeping stinks ... especially when you're sick.
  • Extreme headaches. Good thing there's ibuprofen.
  • Loss of appetite. Self explanatory.

How does it spread? Mosquitoes. And those little buggers are EVERYWHERE. So I'm wearing bug spray like it's my favorite perfume and hoping that I don't get it again. I've already been sleeping under a mosquito net since the day I arrived in Tonga.

How is Tonga affected? Right now, the Ministry of Health Director here in Tonga estimates that 10,000 people have been affected and that number will only go up. To learn more, click here for an article from ABC news.

How has my direct community been affected? A lot of my students have missed school, every single one of my teachers has had it (luckily at different times so we were only down 1-2 teachers a time). 

My community seems to be through the worst of it, but I'm not a health professional so who knows. I'm feeling better, too. I'm moving slow, still have hints of a rash and am gaining my appetite back. I'm grateful for good friends who brought me food since it hurt to sit up and for my students who woke me up every morning with "Hello Mandy! 'Ofa 'atu!" (Love to you) 

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