Chikungunya. Most Salvadorans just call it "Chik."
Chik scares people. "Our bodies have no memory of this disease, so we cannot fight it." It runs through family members in rapid succession. Data indicates that the majority of victims are teens and young adults. Parents are frightened to see their energetic youth suddenly stricken by fever, severe headache, joint pain and a red, itchy rash. For some, the joint pain is so severe that victims cannot walk or stand, and pain seems to linger in the wrists after the other symptoms have passed. For some, rehydration with IV fluids is needed.
Clinics are inundated with cases of Chik. Doctors are seeing four times the number of patients usually seen in a day. Pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and high-risk patients are hospitalized. Treatment consists of taking acetaminophen for the pain and drinking lots and lots of fluids, especially Suero. For some, complications occur when patients take ibuprofen or other pain reliever and damage is done to the patents' kidneys. For some, joint pain can be permanent. For most, the disease lasts a miserable seven days, and then the patient is fully recovered.
Chik is spread by the same type of mosquito (called zancudo) which spreads Dengue. Zancudos are day-biters. An infected person receives a bite; the zancudo bites another person and shares the virus with that person. While Chik is scary, Dengue can be deadly. The ramped-up efforts by health departments, clinics and mayors' offices to fight Chik are efforts which should be (and often are) used to fight Dengue.
As news travels around the world about one frightening disease or another, Salvadorans are mindful that the challenges of poor infrastructure and many people living in small spaces make the population susceptible to infections which run wild. This is the root reason behind the fear and furor surrounding Chik.
My friend and I want to hold up the amazing efforts of the ECOs and Health Promoters (government and church promoters) throughout El Salvador who are working every day to educate families and mitigate the risks to the health of the Salvadoran people. We also think every family should have a duck and a couple of tilapia.