It is quiet at our Port-au-Prince office this week. Office doors are shut and lights are turned off. There is less chatter coming from the cafeteria at lunch time. No, people are not on vacation. Unfortunately several are out sick with a mosquito-borne virus called Chikungunya. Oh and that’s not a typo. The first few times I said it, it came out sounding more like chicken-something.
Everyone is talking about Chikungunya. Over the past two weeks it seems I have not gone a couple hours without having a conversation about it. The Chikungunya first arrived in the Caribbean in late 2013 and has quickly spread throughout the region. The first cases in Haiti were reported in early May.
The virus causes joint pain, rash and fever but is not fatal. One friend (who is young) told me the pain was so bad in his joints it made him feel like an old man! Some people have been calling the virus kraze zo which means “broken bones” in Kreyol.
Quite literally, people are dropping like flies. I can think of 10 co-workers who have had Chikungunya in the past two weeks and many people in our church community have gotten it too. Apparently this kind of virus spreads very fast. It doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of rainy season here in Haiti which means there are lots of places for mosquitos to make babies.
So far Martha and I have been spared. We’ve been using mosquito repellent and candles in our house to ward off the little villains but it is hard not to get bit even with all these precautions.
It’s tough to see something like this hit Haiti. One thing I’ve learned here is how important good health is for the poor. Many people work in the informal sector meaning they do not have a salary or guaranteed income, much less health insurance or sick days. If you are a subsistent farmer or a day laborer, you will not get paid or eat if you do not work. So being sick can prevent you from earning an income, providing for your family, and taking care of your kids.
The CDC has produced some fact sheets in English and Kreyol which are helpful. We emailed the Kreyol version to our co-workers and also posted it on our message board in the office.
Please join us in prayer for healing and protection for our co-workers, their families, and for the thousands of others affected throughout the country.
Here’s a couple recent news articles about Chikungunya if you’re interested: