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Jamaican Saints Courageously Battle the Chikungunya Virus

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the Chikungunya Virus as:

"...a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.  It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pan, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash…. The joint pain is often very debilitating.  Most patients recover fully but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years…The disease can contribute to the cause of death". [who.int]

Chikungunya is transmitted by the Aedesaegypti and the Aedesalbopictus mosquitoes.  The disease got its name after an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952 and means "that which bendsyou over" or"to become contorted". 

This disease has been confirmed in approximately 40 countries and is thought to have been first identified in 1779.

Currently, there is no cure for the disease so health professionals prescribe and encourage the affected to take painkillersand to drink plenty of fluidsto relieve the almost crippling symptoms.

Without a cure, controlling the growth of mosquitoes may be the best way to prevent the spread of Chikungunya. Effective measures include wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants to cover exposed legs and arms, trimming excess bushesand discarding unused containersthat could hold stagnant water and breed mosquitoes. 

Most recently the disease has been making its rounds in the Caribbean.  Jamaica was hit especially hard causing schools and businesses to operate at reduced capacity or to completely shut down for days.

As part of the Jamaican community, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as Mormons or Latter-Day Saints) are no exception. 

Antoinette Peart of the Constant Spring Ward, a local LDS congregation, is a Sunday School Teacher and mother of four (4).  She was afflicted by the Chikungunya virus just a few days before hobbling to church on Sunday to teach Sunday School.  Clearly in pain and with a rash on her face, she dutifully and meekly presented the lesson.  When asked why she decided against recovering at home in favour of going to church, she replied:  "When I think of giving service, I think of my Saviour and the good example he set for me… I had a responsibility.  I was still able to move even though in pain… ".

Dr. Kezia Sinclair a member of the LDS church, shared her experience with Chikungunya in her practice.

At first, there was a rush of patients, old and new, in an otherwise slow period for the office.  Many of the patients were severely dehydrated and required I.V. fluids.  To make matters worse, staff members including a fellow doctor contracted the disease.  This caused a short staff but no shortage of patients.  Dr.  Sinclair herself was hospitalized for a couple days at which point she did consultations by phone.  The practice had to be closed for a couple of weeks. One thing that stood out to Dr. Sinclair was that with more experience and education with a new disease, treatment became easier and more manageable.  Her advice:  “Drink plenty of fluids.  Double up on fluid; even on the fluids like sports drink and coconut water to replace the natural electrolytes lost and get a week’s worth of rest even if you think you don’t need it.  Many patients have responded so well to doing those two things that medication was not need”.

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