Hello world! This is my first blog, and the reason I’m writing it is because I recently contracted a mosquito-borne virus called the Chikungunya virus while I was on vacation in the Caribbean. I live in New England, and the mosquito that typically transmits this disease (the Aedes mosquito) is not native to this part of the US (but is in the Caribbean). Hence my reason for writing this blog: I am pretty isolated up in New England with this miserable virus. I have never met anyone who has also had this virus, and even the best Infectious Disease doctors in the state have limited training and experience on this particular illness; although I am under the care of a couple of docs (both internal medicine and infectious disease), I feel that I have nobody to relate to or “compare notes” with, especially on a personal level.
I’m writing this blog to share my story of how Chikungunya presented itself in my case, and discuss how I reacted to it on a personal level. I remember on the 4th day of Chikungunya symptoms, lying in the emergency room staring at the ceiling thinking, “this is pretty scary. Just breathe.” I like to think I’m a tough girl, but the symptoms are so bizarre with this virus that I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. The first week is like the 7 plagues: each day I woke up with a new bizarre, and in some cases terrifying, symptom. And I was in pain. While I was staring at the ceiling contemplating my Chikungunya demise, my husband next to me was furiously Googling the keywords “Chikungunya rash” wondering if the scary rash I had would result in some crazy anaphylactic allergic reaction/ultimate death (spoiler: no, it didn’t). Sure, the CDC, the WHO, Webmd, Wikipedia etc. all have very detailed “spec sheets” of typical Chikungunya symptoms with respect to a wide profile of patients. There are tons of statistical analyses out there and a plethora of explanations of the mechanism of transmission. Although I had all the statistics, at that point, lying in the hospital bed, I was really looking for someone out there in cyberworld I could relate to on a personal level. I was desperately seeking a Chikungunya blog to no avail, and hence I’m really hoping to help anyone out there who may be seeking the same thing, or who’s going through the first phases of the disease and wants to know about someone else’s experience. I’m also certainly speaking to those who may not have had the virus, but who are curious as to what Chikungunya is and its effects on day to day life.
Some both relevant and non-relevant background on me/ my medical history: Overall, I’m a very healthy 27 year old female. Before Chikungunya, I exercised 5-6 times per week (lifting weights, yoga, spin, running etc.). I accomplished my goal of deadlifting my body weight earlier this year, and I continue to power lift toward new goals. I have a pretty high stress job as an engineer, and I commute via public transportation and walking (I’m on my feet a lot). I’m married, and we just bit the bullet and bought a house in the ‘burbs about 6 months before I got sick. I have a resting pulse in the low 50’s, and my blood pressure/cholesterol/yearly blood panel is excellent. I’m a regular flosser, so much that my dentist gave me a high five last time I was in for a cleaning. (I’ll explain why this is important later.) I take a multivitamin every day, and I eat a pretty balanced diet (except for the fact that I enjoy the occasional Sunday afternoon mojito or Pinkberry dessert.) If there was a gold medal for sleeping, I’d win it. I fall asleep instantly and could sleep for a dozen hours if I wanted. Never wake up in the middle of the night, don’t wake up with night terrors or nightmares typically, and feel well rested most days.
Major surgeries? Had my appendix out at the age of 10, and standard wisdom teeth removal in high school. Significant illnesses? I had pneumonia when I was 22, and I used to get frequent colds and sinus infections before I got into exercise about 4 years ago. Since then (in the past 4 years), I have had 3 colds. I’m thus a strong believer that fitness is the secret. No history of joint pain, no history of mental illness or depression (I’ll explain later why this is also important). Overall a happy healthy, and for the most, part bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 27 year old.
As I write this, I’m in the 5th week of Chikungunya (spoiler: i’m still feeling it.) Each day of the acute phase I actually wrote down my symptoms since I knew up front that, in this area of the world, Chikungunya isn’t hugely well defined or researched. I was misdiagnosed during the early stages of the virus by one ID doc as having dengue fever (prior to blood results, which confirmed Chikungunya positive and dengue negative), and another ID doc I went to actually pulled up the CDC website to read about Chikungunya symptoms as I was sitting in her office asking her questions. (Probably could have done that myself, but that’s a story for another day.) I wrote everything down with the intention of writing this blog, so voila — intention manifested. In this blog, I’m going to rewind back to Day 1 (and prior — I’ll discuss where I traveled) and detail exactly how I felt each day during the acute phase, and then conclude with how I’m doing now in what I believe to be the “subacute” phase, 5 weeks later. I hope this blog will end there (i.e. that I’ll be feeling better ASAP), but who knows how long this thing will last. The doctors certainty don’t!
Before continuing on, I must make a couple disclaimers: Disclaimer #1) I am not a medical doctor, nor am I in any way qualified or authorized to suggest medical remedies or infer that the home remedies that I tried ease pain in all cases. This is my personal experience with the virus intended to be taken at face value. Disclaimer #2) N=1. By this I mean I am only writing about myself, which means that the sample size is one here (shout out to my statistician friends). What happened to me probably isn’t representative of the greater population of those infected with Chikungunya. Again this is to be taken at face value.
This blog is organized into, what I found to be, the three distinct phases of the virus. The ACUTE PHASE was the first 11 days of the virus for me, the SUBACUTE PHASE was the following 3-4 months, and the CHRONIC PHASE is everything after that. If you’re on a mobile device, click “Menu” at the top of the page to navigate the different phases of the illness. If you’re on a computer, there should be a horizontal bar at the top of the page containing links to the different phases.
I hope you find this informative! Happy reading!