Mounting concern as crippling virus reaches Caribbean,USA

Friday, June 6, 2014

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Laurence, a 58-year-old Haitian woman who works in my building, woke up with sharp pain and fever and thought she was dying. She was unable to rise from her bed or hold a glass of water because of the pain in her joints. She could not believe this was a real disease, surmising it must be a voodoo spell that her neighbor put on her.

Unfortunately, her illness, a mosquito-borne virus called Chikungunya, is becoming more and more familiar in Haiti, throughout the Caribbean, and even in Florida, where travellers to the Caribbean have reported cases.

There have been outbreaks of Chikungunya in Africa, Asia and Europe in the past, but the virus arrived in the western hemisphere only in 2013, in the Caribbean. Today, there are cases reported in16 Caribbean countries. Chikungunya has not yet been transmitted between people in the United States, but that could change in the near future.

The debilitating symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 weeks but, for some, joint pain lasts for months or even years. Chikungunya is not fatal, but this is the kind of small disaster that keeps slowing Haiti’s development.

We are used to big disasters, like the huge earthquake that hit us in 2010 and the ensuing chaos that plagues us still. As we continue to recover and rebuild, we need support not just for the catastrophes that grab headlines, but with the smaller but growing problems like Chikungunya, which are perhaps even more insidious because they seem banal.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation (link opens in a new window)

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Health Care
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health care, Non-communicable diseases, pharmaceutical industry, public health