Sorry it has been so long since we have posted. I (Matt) have been working on a website for Christianville the last week or so and that has taken a lot of time, but we wanted to put up a post so that you could see how different life is here than other places. You probably noticed the title of the post is much different than any other that we have written. Some of you may be more familiar with the term CHIKV because that is what it has been called in the states. Anyway, Chikungunya is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes and is accompanied by a high fever, headache, and joint pain. It is similar to “Dengue Fever” but with slightly milder pain (Dengue means “broken bone”).
So, the reason we wanted to share about this is because of how prevalent it is here in Haiti. I don’t know the true numbers of how many people have had this virus, but almost everyone we know (probably at least 90% of the people including our kids at All Things New) has at least said they have had “the fever” and accompanying pain. (I forgot to mention that while it is called “CHIKV” in America, it is called “La Fev” or “the fever” here).
So, here is the point of this post. When people contract the virus here, do you know what they do? They suffer for a few days, try to rest and sleep in the heat, and then they get better and get right back to their normal life. Normally they do not have Tylenol or Advil, they do not go to a doctor, and they do not get a prescription to help them feel better. They just get through the fever (in some cases send a relative in to work for them), tell everyone that they have it and then they’re back to normal.
When someone contracts the virus in America, there is a much different reaction. In America, in the case we heard about, the person was quarantined and it sent a panic through newsrooms and homes in Duval. People thought that an epidemic of major proportions was about to break out. I am exaggerating a little, but not much. We hear about something called “CHIKV” and it puts people in a panic that a tropical disease might hit America. The thing we forget about is that people in 3rd world tropical nations deal with this reality every single day with less than 1% of the resources found in America.
Was there a panic here? Yes. When a virus like this hits, everyone just assumes that they either have it now or will have it later and even if they don’t, psychologically they do. But it’s just interesting the different ways that different nations handle something like this. In Haiti, it happens all the time, when it is not CHIKV, it is something else and they just handle it like “business as usual.” In America, if there is even the threat of a cold breaking out everyone is up in arms, keeping their children home from school and making sure that they don’t catch whatever it is.
I don’t say any of this to say that one way is better than the other. In fact, if I contracted chikungunya, I would definitely rather be in my bed in my air conditioned apartment than sitting out in the heat of the day in Haiti. It’s just interesting how when something like this hits it doesn’t matter your education level, your economic status, or even your ability to get to a doctor. All that matters is that something that you cannot control has a possibility of affecting your life and you have to deal with it. This is our first time being on this side of the equation and our perspective has definitely changed.