Monday, July 9, 2012


Chikungunya has nothing to do with chickens. Instead, it has a lot to do with primates. Ever since I got my invite to Cambodia I've heard the term Dengue more times than I can count. Dengue is the big bad. When you get it your fever is so high you could hallucinate. The pain in your muscles and bones is so intense that they call it "bone break fever". On top of all that, you end up sleeping with your toilet because it causes vomiting.

Chikungunya is not Dengue, but it's similar. It's transmitted by the same mosquito and it has similar symptoms. There's fever, pain, rash, and maybe vomiting. It's so similar that a lot of children with it are misdiagnosed as having Dengue (generally Cambodians believe adults cannot contract Dengue because most of them had Dengue as children and are immune). It's probably a cause for the 300% increase in Dengue cases this year. The arrival of Chikungunya 2 months before my departure was an interesting coincidence.

In early June, I was probably tested for dengue and malaria for the 500th time and both came back negative again. I was one of the first ones to get it in my village, probably because of my complete lack of immunity. My host niece also got it. About a week after I got the disease patients flooded the health center with the same symptoms. Patients from all 20 villages in my catchment area. Very few adults had immunity and so the disease spread quickly. Just last week one of the midwives at my health center was bed ridden with rash, swelling, and an intense headache.

This week I found out that chikungunya causes arthritis for months possibly years. I thought I was just getting old. I hope it resolves itself soon, but as with any disease it can have unintended consequences. I'll take this moment to tell everyone to vaccinate their children! Vaccines protect children from lethal and disfiguring diseases and you never know where they might catch one or who they may give it to. Unless you want to be the cause of the next measles epidemic then be sure to vaccinate your kids.

Now, my case isn't confirmed yet and I really wouldn't be surprised if I got another negative test result. Being sick so often here has really given me a deeper understanding of how medicine really works and how the best doctors are also the best detectives and magicians.


  1. Hi Im Neil fron the Philippines I also contracted chikungunya last Oct. 2012.

  2. can you be my friend? you can add me on facebook: Profile name Neil Jaba. Thank you