Dengue and Chikungunya are so similar. However, I had not heard of anyone suffering from both of them, expect in my case. I was diagnosed with dengue about a year ago. And this year, as the heavy rains struck the city, I was struck again with another similar infection, Chikungunya! Here’s how these infections have changed my routine life.
Waking up in the morning
The weakness has stayed with me even after the fever and other symptoms of dengue resolved. I am struggling with my morning rituals and tasks since the dengue infection I suffered from last year. And now again, due to chikungunya, this weakness has only become worse. I have taken leave from my work due to high fever. So, I take my own time to get up. Proper sleep and rest help me stay fresh for the rest of the day.
Starting the day
Though I get up late, it does not help much with my morning rituals. I have developed severe joint pains, muscle stiffness, and even skin rashes. I have to move about slowly and take help from someone to support me. The skin rash has appeared over my hands, legs, and even my belly, and back. Because of this, I find it difficult to take a bath every day.
I have to limit this activity to twice a week and for the rest of the days, it’s just sponge bath for me. There is also a mild swelling in my knees, and fingers. I cannot hold toothbrush properly. My family members have to help me with brushing and other activities.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
My meals are restricted to bland foods. I feel a weird bitter taste in my mouth. I have also lost my appetite. Previously, I used to eat 3 to 4 boiled eggs for breakfast. But, now, I can hardly eat one or two. However, I try to eat small amount of food more frequently throughout the day instead of 3 big meals. This has helped to reduce weakness to some extent.
I also drink fruit juices and plain water throughout the day to keep feeling fresh and energetic. This is the same regime I followed last year when I suffered from dengue. I suppose the only difference between dengue and chikungunya is related to the germs that cause them. Though both are viral infections transmitted through the bites by infected Aedes mosquitoes, they are caused due to different viruses. While Chikungunya is caused due to the Togaviridae alphavirus, dengue occurs due to the Flaviviridae flavivirus.
Most other characteristics about these 2 infections, including symptoms, treatment, and mode of transmission are same. This similarity has helped me to take proper care of myself as my previous experience with dengue has taught me the basics of these infections.
Going to work and taking medications
I would not be going to work for another month. I will have to wait till by blood count comes back to normal and my weakness is relieved. As of today, I find it difficult to even stand without support. I will resume work only when I feel confident enough to travel alone. Till then, I have to focus on taking proper treatment. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for dengue as well as for chikungunya.
All I can do is maintain hydration and seek pain relief. I need to eat a nutritious diet and drink plenty of fluids to ease the weakness. However, last year, I had to be admitted as my platelet count and blood pressure had become very low. I was treated with platelet transfusion and parenteral rehydration. This time, I am taking care to avoid such complications and hence, paying more attention to my food and water intake.
Prevention of complications
I check my platelet count every 3 days. The doctor has advised me to get admitted for platelet transfusion in case the count is very low. Additionally, he has strictly instructed me to avoid spicy and fried foods as they can worsen nausea, vomiting, and other digestive symptoms.
He has also asked me to seek medical attention immediately in case I experience the warning signs of complications like repeated vomiting, nasal bleeding, red spots patches on the skin, bleeding from the gums, black, tarry stool, vomiting of blood, drowsiness, and breathing troubles.
What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?
I have to spend the day either trying to sleep or taking rest. I avoid doing any activities even while I am awake. The severe joint pains do not allow me to move about much. Also, the doctor has advised me against exerting myself too much.
I need to conserve my energy. However, this has made me dependent on others. Apart from the dependency, there is also the fear of developing complications. Since I am infected with the chikungunya virus, my family members have to take extra precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites so that they do not contract the infection.
How does the future look like?
I suppose I should be able to start performing my own activities and even join office within a month. However, I fear the weakness might stay with me longer, perhaps for several years. I have still not recovered from the weakness caused by the dengue attack.
I fear the current viral infection of chikungunya will only add to the existing weakness and may reduce my ability to work further. This might affect my productivity at the office and affect my career prospects. I am planning to stick to the healthy diet for forever to ensure these infections pose no problems for me and my health.
What are the risk factors?
Per say, the only risk for dengue and chikungunya is the bite by an infected Aedes mosquito. But, there are too many ways by which you may get the mosquito bite and hence, an equal number of precautions have to be followed to prevent these infections. I wear long sleeves and use mosquito nets to avoid being bitten. We make sure the surroundings are clean by disposing the waste regularly.
Since the virus for chikungunya and dengue breed in water, we also avoid storing water in flower pots, containers, or coolers. The doctor has also asked us to apply mosquito repellents while going out. Hopefully, these measures will protect my family from contracting the infections from me. It should help me also to prevent the infection in future.
The evolution of Dengue and Chikungunya
The initial symptoms I experienced were fever, headache, and body pains. I also had a sense of pain and pressure behind my eyes. There were also breathing difficulties and slight bleeding tendencies along with muscle stiffness and joint pains. However, these symptoms subsided within a month. The weakness has persisted since the episode of dengue last year and is expected to worsen with the chikungunya infection I am suffering from.
What are the psychological effects when you have Dengue and Chikungunya?
It’s not just the inconvenience of being dependent on others that bothers me. I am also worried about the lingering symptoms that will stay with me for several coming years. I can only hope to gain back my strength and stamina over a period of time with a proper nutritious diet. These infections have definitely changed my life. I am no longer the care-free person who did everything that came to his mind. Now, the life has come down to just 2 words, weakness and restrictions!