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CARICOM

In the Caribbean, close encounters of a public health kind

Carmen Carpio's picture
Sick Caribbean Map
Illustration: Carmen Carpio and Sabrina Grace Moren

I consider myself a pretty lucky person.  I often work across the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, with their glistening turquoise seas, the lush greenery, fresh tropical fruit… I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Paradise is not always perfect, however: Beneath the postcard views is an often not-so-perfect public health system.

A recent “close encounter” in the Caribbean served as a stark reminder of this truth. Different from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, it didn’t involve little green men nor giant floating spaceships, but something just as unknown, at least to me: chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

 
Unfortunately, I was infected with chikungunya a little over a year ago during a work trip to the Eastern Caribbean in support a results-based financing project for the health sector.  Our team was de-briefing near the ocean when it happened: I felt a quick sting from a mosquito bite, but didn’t think much of it.  I felt unusually tired that evening, and by the next morning a number of other symptoms appeared – it was indeed chikungunya.