Was it Dengue?

Oct 25, 2005

From my Paama journals, February 16-18, 1998:

A Monday morning and I should be teaching, but instead I’m housebound, still fighting this illness with sore throat, fever, aches in my joints and a sore back. Yesterday I was feeling lousy and very weak. I skipped church, which was held under the school’s mango tree to commission the new school year. Later, I did amble over to the community lunch; I didn’t eat anything, but stuck around to watch a very funny and highly effective skit done by a troupe sponsored by the electoral office of the government … play, all about voting rights and election fairness — the main message was that each registered voter is entitled to a secret choice in the election, and voters shouldn’t be swayed by bribes, empty promises or pressure from a chief to support a particular candidate. There were close to 200 villagers gathered under the mango tree — men, women and lots of children — and we laughed uproariously. I was feeling very ill, and slumped in my chair for most of the discusson after; Erin did say a brief encouragement about voting being special.

Last night, my discomfort was too painful, so Erin brought nurse Elizabeth to the house. Elizabeth looked in my throat and confirmed that I did have an infection brewing. We resolved that I would call [Peace Corps Medical Officer] Jane and begin antibiotics upon her ok, but by midnight my whole body was achy and painful still — especially my knees, neck and back — so I began Amoxycillin. This morning, miraculously, the phone was working and I was easily connected to the Peace Corps office, only to find Jane off for the day. Now, at 4 o’clock, the phones are down, and I’m frustrated because my body moves only creakingly….

Another frustrating element of our [island] lifestyle is a lack of mail — we just know there’s mail for us at the PC office, but for some reason it’s not getting transferred to us. We continue to write two and three letters a day, and we want a return on our investment of time.

In the last few weeks, my passion for Erin has grown — I’m steadfastly in love with her, and very attracted to her. She’s lost some weight, is tanning and building muscle, and is very nurturing to me. Ironically, as my passion for her has grown, I’ve been able to touch her less and less: the cultural taboo on touching; the heat and sweat and itchy [mango allergy] rashes; and my illness minimize our opportunities for touch, sex, intimacy. But we’ll make up for that soon.

… OK, not 30 minutes after I finished the above entry, Erin walked in with an armload of mail and a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. What a wondrous feeling, holding letters from Joel, Dad, Rice Hershey, Butch McCarty, Grandpa Sisco — relating day-to-day winter weather in DeKalb — Grandpa Zuiker — humbly clinging to health — and many others. My neck still hurts, but my spirits are soaring.

… Three hours ago I was sure I was suffering from Dengue hemorrhagic fever — my joints were screaming, I felt like collapsing and my eyes were bloodshot. But after sitting, eating and taking two Nuprin [ibuprofen] tablets, I feel so much better, though I am developing a cough. I’ve taken a malaria blood slide just to be safe, and if I wake up tomorrow still ill, I’ll send the slide to Jane.
End journal excerpt.

Later in our service, Erin got Dengue for certain (see my earlier entry, and this entry about immune enhancement. But I’ve always wondered if I had the virus, too, as noted in my journal.

Tomorrow, I’m to give some blood to science, a UNC study of Dengue antibodies. The docs running the study say they’ll be able to tell me if I did indeed have Dengue, and if so, which of the four strains it was.

UPDATE APRIL 2006: The study confirmed that I was seropositive for dengue type 2.

Anton Zuiker

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