It’s official, one of the many diseases/viruses that we were continually warned about before embarking on our journey to South America has literally hit home. On a trip to the interior of Guyana last week, one of my roommates contracted malaria. I’m thankful it isn’t chikin gunya or dengue fever, but I’m not thrilled about the malaria either.
She returned home on Saturday evening, and by Saturday night she was vomiting profusely and on her way to the emergency room, which resulted in a two-night stay in the local hospital. Let me tell you, I had to go to this hospital in December to have a piece of glass removed from my foot, and it is NOT a place you want to spend very much time. I wouldn’t trust any of the employees there to do much more than pull a piece of glass from my foot.
Now that my roommate has returned home from her stay in the hospital, we’ve taken every precaution in our house to make sure that the malaria doesn’t spread to any of the rest of us. It is so very difficult to figure out how something like malaria works, but we’re not taking any chances. The fear, for now, is that a new mosquito will bite my infected roommate and then immediately bite one of the rest of us, effectively transferring the virus. Malaria is only said to exist in the interior, it isn’t suppose to be here in Georgetown or on much of the coastal area of Guyana, but it is possible for uninfected mosquitoes here to pass the virus from one person to another. This fear has caused us to begin closing our doors earlier in the day, meaning there is no cross breeze in our home during the evening hours. We’ve also had to put up bug nets around our beds again. This is particularly heart breaking as it is causing me to have flashbacks to the first four months I spent sleeping under a bug net at our old house. Last night was my first night in a long time sleeping under a bug net and it was not easy to transition back into doing. The nets hold in a lot of body heat, not to mention every time you fall asleep with a body part touching the net, the mosquitoes just end up munching on that particular area over and over again, which leaves you with a nice checkered look on your skin. Last night, it was my wrist that was the victim to four or five bites.
Now that malaria is actually in our house, we’ve been doing more and more research on the virus. It’s so difficult to find accurate information. I just don’t know what to believe about malaria. How long does it stay in your body? Can it be transferred? Are there really different types of it? According to the hospital, my roommate has contracted the “worst strain” of it—whatever that means.
Until further notice, we’ll be doing our best to keep our bodies from becoming mosquito chow. Rumor has it that we’ll only need to sleep with bug nets for four to eight weeks. If I adjust to my net again though, I may just sleep with it for the duration of my time here.
In other illness news, I’m currently experiencing my first cold since I arrived in Guyana seven months ago. I consider that pretty good. While each of my roommates have fallen ill before, this is the first time I’ve actually actively taken a round of ibuprofen and drank a Gatorade. The best part about this cold is that it’s barely a cold at all. I cough about once every ten minutes and feel the need to go to bed an hour or so early, but that’s about it. It isn’t debilitating or affecting my work at all. It’s just a good excuse to skip the gym.
I suppose it wouldn’t have been a year in South America without a tropical illness creeping up on us at some point. Please, join me in praying that I won’t be posting any follow up message about any other tropical diseases or new cases of malaria.