One of my first concerns upon making the decision to live in Asia was about the mosquito population here. But, having lived in north-central New Hampshire for twenty-odd years, once I arrived here in Southeast Asia I was pleasantly surprised to find there were far fewer mosquitoes here than where I had been living in the U.S.
Thailand doesn’t hold a candle to the intense mosquito swarms in rural New Hampshire, but there is one tiny little difference…the mosquitoes here can be deadly.
The two mosquitoes above are the vectors for yellow and dengue fever as well as the Chikungunya virus. Certainly most of you are at least familiar with the first two diseases, but Chikungunya? Hum…try pronouncing that while eating a bagel smeared with cream cheese and lox!
Chikungunya virus or CHIKV as it is more informally referred to, is a virus transmitted by our two little buddies above, causing fever, severe joint pain, rash, and other less likely symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The name is Makonde, an East African language, for "that which bends up" referring to the contorted posture of patients afflicted with the severe joint pain associated with this disease.
So why am I writing about this?
Well, I’m writing about it because Mam and I first heard about it on the news warning that the southern provinces of Songkhla (where we live), Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and Nakon Si Thammarat are experiencing an epidemic of Chikungunya virus, with many people clogging the hospitals and local clinics suffering from moderate to severe joint pain, fever, and rash.
Shortly after hearing about it in the news, Mam heard about people in and around our village who had been infected with the virus. Then, about four days ago, Mam came down with the virus.
Mam didn’t have a fever but on the first day her symptoms were discovered, she had intense joint pain that practically incapacitated her to the point of having to stay in bed all day. Now, four days later, her symptoms are slightly relieved and she is able to get around a bit. She heard yesterday that two women she knows in our village have come down with the virus and more are getting it every day. It’s probably just a matter of time before I come down with the virus.
We’ve seen teams of people out and about spraying and fogging our area for mosquito control, but I think it's a little too late as the incubation period for Chikungunya is two to five days.
As you can see, the red area in the south of Thailand is the most heavily hit with just a few sporadic areas in yellow where the disease has either migrated or has an incidence of short outbreaks.
Luckily, the viral infection only lasts about a week in most cases, and once you’ve gotten it, you can’t get it again.