The Brunswick County couple, who contracted the Chikungunya virus while working at an orphanage in Haiti, has been back at their Leland home for over a month.
While in Haiti, Jay and Diane Merritt, caught and recovered from the high fever and rash associated with the virus. But now, another medical condition has surfaced.
Since a major earthquake struck over four years ago, the Merritts have made several trips to Haiti, working with many of the orphanages there. During their last visit, they not only got intestinal problems, but also were bitten by mosquitoes that infected the couple with the Chikungunya virus, which is sweeping the country.
The Merritts recovered after about a week, and returned to North Carolina last month, thinking they were rid of the virus and its nasty effects. In the past couple of weeks, however, another problem associated with the virus has hit them.
"We have started waking up in the mornings, extremely stiff, and having arthritis like symptoms in our joints, all the joints, not just one or two," said Jay Merritt about another effect from the Chikunguyna virus.
Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has become ground zero for the virus, where thousands of people are sick.
Following the 2010, earthquake, many people are still living in makeshift housing, where sanitation efforts are horrible. At the orphanage where the Merritts worked, there was no clean water and no electricity available, leading to outbreaks of infected mosquitoes everywhere.
There is no vaccine for the virus and the only medicines that Jay and Diane have been told that could help them are over the counter pain medications, something Jay Merritt says is out of the reach of most of the Haitians suffering from what many who live there are simply calling "the fever."
"Fifty percent of the people there are in absolute horrible poverty, we think of poverty here is somebody who is living on twelve thousand dollars a year," said Merritt. "There, the average income might be five hundred dollars a year."
The Merritts say the pain coming from their joints and muscles is expected to eventually go away, but it could take months for that to happen. Despite the latest medical issue to strike them, the Merritts say they would have no reservations making another trip to Haiti.
The Chikungunya virus is not the only medical issue that has affect Haiti since the 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. For the past three years, the country has been battling a major outbreak of cholera, and again, it is become of the sanitation issues there.
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