Chennai Journal
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Back in the States, I used to regularly give blood. Here, I can't do it because my blood pressure is elevated and that rules you out. I remember having to check a lot of boxes on the American Red Cross form about where I had been and if I had ever had a long list of diseases. One of them that stuck in my mind---because of the odd name---was chikungunya.

Chikungunya is carried by the Aedes (Greek for odious) mosquito, which also carries yellow fever and dengue fever, and is endemic to Africa and India. Mosquitoes usually come out at dusk, but this pesky little creature is a daytime mosquito. It becomes a transmitter of the virus by biting an infected individual, so chikungunya tends to occur in families. There has been an outbreak of chikungunya in Tamil Nadu over the past couple of months, and one of dengue fever in Delhi and several northern states. Although chikungunya is completely curable, it causes fever and pain in the joints that can linger for several weeks. Dengue is more dangerous. Both diseases are seasonal, and are associated with the monsoon season. There has been a lot of publicity in Tamil Nadu about ways to keep the mosquitoes at bay by making sure there is no standing water around. Our apartment complex is fogged regularly, so there aren't usually too many of them around. Apparently, Chennai has the highest consumption of mosquito repellent in the country, so people are taking no chances.

Chikungunya has become a political topic in Tamil Nadu, with the recently ousted Jayalithaa claiming that over 200 people have died. The new Chief Minister denies this and has demanded that she name them.

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