Beware of medicines claiming to cure chikungunya pains

Monami Basu
Monami BasuOct 20, 2016 | 12:33

Beware of medicines claiming to cure chikungunya pains

The onslaught of Chikungunya in Delhi has been relentless in the past two months. Many who fell prey to it are left fighting post-disease symptoms like weakness, excruciating joint pain and the trauma of not knowing what is happening to their body; unaware when the pain will end.

It has been a lonely battle right from the beginning — from government negligence in prevention of mosquito-borne diseases to the lack of effort in controlling the epidemic, to the absence of post-infection care advisory. 


In many cases, neither the doctors nor the patients have any clue about the disease. Is it even Chikungunya? For many of us, when the tests came out to be negative - we were told that it is a regular virus that comes with the same symptoms as Chikungunya.

In every street corner, in neighbourhoods, even at parent-teacher meets, the debilitating pain dominates discussions. Most narratives go like this:

"It has been one-and-a-half months and I still have excruciating pain. Last week, it went from bad to worse and I have been limping. Mornings are the worst and I feel like an 80-year-old waking up. My shoulders are frozen, the less said the better about the knees... every moveable joint."

"Two months since the fever has gone, but the base of my feet still hurt. I can't stand at a stretch for more than 10 minutes."

"My hands and feet are swollen, and the skin at the base of my feet is peeling off. I have rashes, and my joints have frozen to the point of my entire body feeling straightened out."

"The pain moves, it begins at the thumb and the elbow, then moves to the knees."

"I can't squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, I can't unscrew the cap of a bottle, I can't even move the ladle while cooking."


"I teach and writing on the blackboard has become impossible."

The worst-affected are the people who earn their livelihood from physical labour. Not working for months is not an option they can afford, no matter how much their fingers and hands hurt.

It has been a nightmare for professional beauticians who, for instance, offer at least ten massages a day; or the domestic help who works in several households - cooking and cleaning - or construction labourers working 12 hours a day, bending down to lift weight.

It is of vital importance that the Delhi government now take serious action against Chikungunya. (PTI photo)

Everyone is looking to relieve their pain willing to try anything out. There is advice aplenty: exercise, don't exercise, crush giloy stem, boil and drink water, try milk infused with "kachhi haldi" and so on. Some people say it works, some say it doesn't. The placebo effect works for a short period, and then the pain comes back with a vengeance.

There are these "wonder drugs" doing the rounds, which miraculously take away the pain. You have one dose in the night, and the next morning you are pain-free. If the pain comes back after a week, you have another dose.

It turns out that most of these drugs doing the rounds in "alternate" therapy markets are actually steroids, sometimes very powerful ones belonging to to the resuscitation steroid family. They are given to patients to revive them from cardiac arrest, used as a last-ditch effort by doctors.


These steroids have long-term side effects like raised blood pressure, weight gain, liver disease and even heart disease or a fatal stroke. The worrisome part is that these steroids are readily available under the garb of "Ayurvedic" or "alternate" medication, and not expensive since they have obviously been procured from the illegal market.

Even educated individuals are turning to these drugs with no knowledge of the composition of the drug they are consuming. This illegal drug market exploits the fact that people are desperate and willing to try out anything to relieve the pain.

It is crucial that the government urgently issues advisories and curbs the sale of such drugs. Otherwise, we will see another series of health complications among the residents of Delhi and it may be too late this time.

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Last updated: October 20, 2016 | 12:33
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