Zika, a four letter word that strikes fear in the hearts and minds of my friends and family. When we announced our move we were asked if we were worried about zika almost more than if we were excited about the move, or what we were going to do once we got here. We brushed off the questions citing all the information we had, that zika is generally no more than body aches (muscles and joints), fever, rash, and red eyes, that is if you get symptoms, because only 1 in 5 people actually get the symptoms of zika. We told all our worriers it was no big deal and not to worry since we weren’t trying to get pregnant any time soon.
We may have slightly underestimated zika… but maybe not in the way you think.
On Thursday of this past week Richard woke up sore, with a headache, feeling a bit woozy. He said his eyes hurt, and he had VERY swollen lymph nodes behind his right ear and at the base of his skull where it meets his neck. Something was up, but we thought it could have been from his hard work the day before, in the sun, chopping down trees on our property while it was very hot out. We thought maybe it was an ear infection since we had been in the water as well. But he started to feel worse. Friday morning when he woke up a rash had appeared on his chest, back, upper arms and butt, and the pains were worse, much worse and accompanied by nausea, lack of appetite, and the full battery of zika related symptoms. I gave him acetaminophen, pepto, and tried to make him comfortable, which is difficult to do when your whole body hurts and your skin is sensitive. His fever was on the rise and by evening he was over 100, for which I gave him some more pain & fever reducing meds. I tried to keep him hydrated, lots of water, smoothies and fresh juice throughout the day, raw / whole foods and finally lentils in the evening.
He was up late last night and slept poorly, this morning I was hoping he would wake up feeling a little better, but instead it was worse. The rash was even more prominent, red pin points all over his trunk, and now his neck, more of his arms and legs, and his skin even more sensitive, itching but not enough to make him scratch, just enough to make the pain that much more bothersome. He took a cold shower, downed some pepto, then we propped him on the living room daybed with a cold rag (my tank top) on his forehead and eyes.
We’ve known several people infected with zika since we’ve been here. The first was the man helping us attain our property, he had to reschedule our first land walk because he was sick with the virus and had all the symptoms as well. Two of my co-workers at the dive center had zika to varying degrees, they had red eyes and rash but not much of a fever and the pains they had were something they could work around. Our landlord even had it and was out with pains, especially in his eyes for a few days then back to work and life as usual. Richard is not so lucky in the pain department. Around the island people speak of it casually, as a passing problem and I’ve been eager to contract it so I can get it over with, so people will stop worrying. You see, once you’ve had it, you can’t get it again.
The question I’ve been asking myself since we arrived is, how do you know if you were one of the 4/5 people who contract zika with no symptoms. How can I tell if I’ve already been exposed, or if I am still ‘under threat’ of zika? The CDC doesn’t know & Doctor’s don’t know, and the blood test I’ve heard so much about apparently isn’t always right, and you have to get tested within a certain timeframe of infection. I know it seems crazy to want to be infected, but when you are a woman of childbearing age, who might one day (in the next 5 years or so) want to start a family, it seems like the cautious thing to do. Get infected before you plan on conceiving, then know you will have a safe pregnancy that won’t be stifled with your family begging you to return to a zika free zone.
Of course I should also make it very clear that 80% of people who contract zika don’t get the symptoms, which is why I say we may have underestimated it. Although the likelyhood we would meet people who had the symptoms we figured we were more likely to get it and not know it, than get either of us getting it with this severe of symptoms.
I’ve cared for Richard while ill or injured many times in our 8+ years together, and I certainly hate to see him sick but to be honest we are relieved that at least one of us is getting it over with. From where I sit it seems almost flu like in the way it drains the body, and causes it pain, and for what it lacks in coughing / sneezing / congestion it makes up for in eye muscle pains, upset stomach, and this crazy looking / itchy rash. So, here I sit, unable to do much for the big guy except feed him pepto and pills watiting for this to pass, while letting all our family and friends know that he will be okay once zika has run its course.
Should you be worried about zika, In my opinion, unless your immune system is already compromised or you are pregnant, don’t worry about contracting zika. There are much worse things which are more likely to happen to you within a mile of your own home than by coming to Dominica or any other country which has been demonized for harboring zika carrying mosquitos. Don’t let such a minor threat deter you from enjoying your life and visiting this beautiful country, or this part of the world.
Richard happened to be an example of the worst of it this morning, but already this evening he was feeling much better, I know he will be feeling right as rain and he doesn’t want any of our family and friends to worry!
Feel free to send your love and well wishes in the comments section and I will pass them on to Rich ❤
Think happy, healing, healthy thoughts and send those positive vibes this way.
I know he appreciates it ❤