The cure for chik-V
Daniel Thwaites, Contributor
I think it's pretty clear that the health ministry underestimated the extent of the chikungunya outbreak. I'm no statistician, but if I know more than a dozen people with it, there can hardly be only 31 cases on the island. And that was before Andrew was a suspected case.
One friend reported to his doctor with suspicious symptoms and was given the choice to pay $15,000 for a blood test that would let him know in two weeks whether he had the real thing. Alternatively, he could avoid the test, keep the money in his pocket, and recover in a week. Hmmmmm. Let me see now ... what to do? Spend the money to find out what by then would be irrelevant? Mek sense!
This particular friend is the sort of man who, if he breaks out into a rash, normally has lots of explaining to do. However, this time his wife wasn't even upset. He reports a feeling similar to what he remembers from a childhood mishap of rolling in cow-itch. Then there are joint pains that have him "feeling like he's 90 years old". My query about how he knows what it feels like to be 90 was met with hostility. People are understandably miserable about this.
The authorities may also want to say something about the various rumours spreading as fast as the chik-V. This is a serious matter. One rumour is that pawpaw leaf is the answer and cure-all. Another is that corn pork with white rum makes you immune. I suppose these are relatively harmless and might only improve sales of JB and the Arnold. That's an improvement to my situation when, years ago, there was a dengue outbreak and I fell into the clutches of my maternal granny.
Normally I miss my grandmother. However, because she habitually responded to every medical and psychological problem with her impressive arsenal of emetics and laxatives, I'm content that my children are beyond her administrations. Incidentally, I attribute my near-miraculous inability to gain weight for the first 40 years of life, despite deplorable eating habits, to the after-effects of her genius.
Needless to say, people should avoid the quackery.
Originally, I was sceptical about all the talk of 'outbreak' and 'epidemic'. I felt there was too much potential for mischief-making to take it at face value. Plus, right about now we're due an outbreak of some national mass hysteria. The country goes through these things periodically, from way back when Mr Brown was riding around in a coffin, to the other day when David Smith was returning 10 per cent monthly.
Mosquito defence Too late
But then I saw Ken Baugh on TV saying that he fears the chikungunya virus was more widespread than the Government was admitting, and that the mosquito had become the national bird. I don't think of Mr Baugh as an alarmist. Quite the opposite. So I was minded to take it seriously and started to organise a local mosquito defence subcommittee in my yard. Too late. Bad luck worse than obeah, and within hours my children were complaining.
The thing has reached a stage where whole schools and businesses are pretty much shuttering.
Minister Ferguson is soaking up a lot of the anger, much of which rightly belongs to the jokers who fail to keep the environment from turning into a malarial swamp. But it's long past time to own up to the scale of the outbreak.
I will also say that Minister Ferguson and the health authorities were doing better at the outset. In the beginning of this thing, they did give adequate warning about the virus creeping up the Caribbean and warned that it would definitely come to us in Jamaica. If anything, it was overdone and the country was primed for panic, because every day there was a report of it turning up in some new country, and as proof, we all knew the name of the disease before it actually reached us.
In fact, one guy reports that he kept hearing about chikungunya to the point where he was experiencing fantasy symptoms. He actually saw a doctor and complained.
Of course, the doctor wanted to know why he had come in: "What has happened? Why are you here?"
He replied: "Well, Doc ... I was watching de TVJ news report where Nadine McLeod dressed up so nicely and went 'cross to Back Road, so I decided to visit. Everybody was very friendly ... . In fact, about a dozen of them were super-friendly. It was all fun. But now I think I have that chikungunya because I have a serious rash on mi body and a burning sensation in mi trousers ... . I think I got bit by a dutty mosquito."
The doctor was shocked: "Yuh definitely have sumting! In fact, don't come near mi. Why yuh tellin' mi all this? I'm a dentist!"
Naturally, when I heard this story, I told him to go home, pray, and eat nuff corn pork and drink white rum. I also mentioned my granny's approach, just in case.
So I went home ... I mean, he went home, rested, and dealt wid tings as cordin' to mi granny's plan. To my surprise, the man is surviving. So, thank God. See me here! I mean it: Praise the Lord! Chikungunya naw goh kill yuh.
Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.