Chief Medical Officer dispels myths about Chikungunya
September 9, 2014

Chief Medical Officer dispels myths about Chikungunya

As Vincentians become increasingly anxious about the spread of the Chikungunya virus, chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache has dispelled some of the myths circulating about it.

With many voicing the concern that the virus is spreading by means other than the mosquito, {{more}}Dr Keizer-Beache shared some pertinent information with SEARCHLIGHT.

She acknowledged that both Dengue and Chikungunya are mosquito-transmitted diseases; however, she pointed out that the latter has been afflicting more persons because Dengue has been present in our region for far longer.

“Chikungunya is new to St Vincent and the Grenadines,” she said.

Dr Keizer-Beache said that over time, the local population would have built up a resistance to Dengue as we have been exposed to it for decades. However, the same cannot be said for the Chikungunya virus.

Resistance to the Chikungunya virus in the general population would be a lot lower than with Dengue, because our immune systems are not used to it.

Another myth circulating at present is that one individual can contract Chikungunya more than once. Dr Keizer-Beache was quick to establish that, in actuality, what people are experiencing is a relapse of the initial infection, and not a fresh one.

“It’s possible to have several relapses after you initially contract the virus,” she confirmed.

She further explained that not only is it possible to have several relapses, but one can also suffer a relapse years after having recovered.

Several persons have been singing the praises of consuming tea made from the leaves of the pawpaw tree to alleviate symptoms and speed up recovery – something that Dr Keizer-Beache admitted she has also been hearing.

She said, however, that she could not comment with any authority on the effectiveness of the herbal remedy, nor offer any explanation as to what specific properties of the pawpaw leaf are helping.

“You would need to ask a herbalist about that,” she offered.

Dr Keizer-Beache did, however, caution those using the herbal remedy to do so in moderation – just as they would with a pharmaceutical remedy – because too much of any one thing can cause adverse reactions.

She further advised persons who suspect they may have Chikungunya to use painkillers such as paracetamol and tylenol, instead of ibuprofen, and to refrain from taking anti-inflammatory medication.

Keizer-Beache explained that as the test for the disease is quite expensive, a significant number of cases are being treated as suspected cases, and have not been confirmed. Because Dengue and Chikungunya have similar symptoms, she has come across several cases where the patient actually had Dengue, and not Chikungunya.

Ibuprofen and anti-inflammatory drugs can cause internal bleeding when given to patients who actually have Dengue.

In additional to taking painkillers at regular intervals throughout the day, Keizer-Beache recommended that afflicted persons drink a lot of fluids, and use cool compresses to combat fever.

Chikungunya is a disease spread through the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which also spreads Dengue. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swelling and a rash.

Precautions against the disease include using insect repellent, wearing appropriate clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats) and using a mosquito net when sleeping.