How I Got Zika Virus in Nicaragua and Lived to Talk About It
I recently had zika, and I can report that zika is not fun.
At the beginning, my symptoms looked like I had pinkeye, but it was weird because it wasn’t a full pinkeye; it was just half of my eye, so I thought I just got some sort of allergy. I was feeling fine in terms of my health; I just didn’t feel well in terms of my eye. Everything else was fine. I was going to the gym, I was going to work, etc.
Then, all of a sudden, it just completely spread through my entire eye, and I didn’t feel fine. My vision was blurry, I didn’t know what was going on, and I was extremely itchy, but I had nothing coming out of my eye, which led us to think that it was bacterial pinkeye.
Then I started sneezing. I started feeling that my ganglia were going crazy, and I had the flu. Coincidently, I turned on CNN, which had news about zika symptoms. After watching that, my husband and I started freaking out. I remembered that right before I started getting sick, there was a mosquito in our room, and I could have sworn it bit me because sometimes they get a bit aggressive and you feel them trying to get into your skin. That’s when I suspected that I had contracted zika.
We went to the hospital and told them that we just did not feel very well and we suspected that we had something that we couldn’t identify. They started doing a battery of tests and took pictures of us and called the Health Ministry. They came and talked to us and they appeared really concerned. Then they sent us home, which was like sending us to quarantine, because we weren’t allowed to leave our house. The next day, they came to our house and not only fumigated it but they fumigated our whole neighborhood. They had this equipment that looked like the blowers that you use to blow the grass and leaves off your lawn, but they blow pesticides. They come and just blow in your entire house. It feels like there are hundreds of motorcycles in your house and all the exhaust is everywhere. That time we weren’t allowed to hang out outside.
Also, it hurt because I had pinkeye in both eyes. They told us to avoid contact with our kids. They also told us to avoid sexual contact with others, which I thought was funny because it was a really weird thing to say to us, but they had to tell us. Then they sent an epidemiologist, who took a timeline of our entire life for the last 10 days while I was sick.
I woke up on day 11 with no symptoms and was fine. My husband was fine as well. Our pinkeye was literally faint pink after being blood red like we were crying blood. We had no joint pain any longer, no fevers, no nothing; we were fine. Of course we tried to go to the gym and run, which did cause us to feel it. You could feel that your body is not 100% recovered yet but we feel completely fine now.
Overall, my take on this is that you could get sick anywhere you go and you could get sick with all kinds of things. It just has to do with precaution, learning about where you are moving, what to do, and what other people do. If you are planning on moving abroad, it is best to get on forums for expats who actually live where you are moving and start asking them what you should do when you come. If you’re moving to a tropical country like Nicaragua, you could ask expats who already moved here about what they do to avoid mosquito bites. They would tell you to wear long sleeves in the afternoons when the mosquitoes come out, put on insect repellent, buy citronella candles, or buy lemongrass oil. There are all kinds of things here in Nicaragua that helps you get rid of mosquitoes so that you won’t get sick.
I was just unlucky but I don’t think this should discourage people from coming to Nicaragua. Yes, you are more likely to get sick in Nicaragua than you would in South Pasadena where I come from, but it is pretty relative because in South Pasadena, you’re not in the jungle. As they say, “You are most likely to get eaten by a wolf if you live in the forest.” I wouldn’t give up coming here to Nicaragua just because of some mosquitoes because if you would think about it, you could also easily get malaria, dengue, or zika in Louisiana, where there are lots of swamps.
(The picture is of my husband and me while hiking in Nicaragua.)