Sunday 22 September 2013


The tropics are full of nasty diseases. Our old condo was in a ‘red alert’ danger zone for dengue, a tropical virus that gives you high fever, rashes, and more worryingly, can drop the platelet count in your blood. It is a dangerous disease, and several people die of it each year in Singapore. This year has been extremely bad, and the government has started a crusade against the tiger mosquito that is responsible. There are campaigns, posters, and in danger zones regular checks whether people don’t leave any puddles or buckets of water unattended. Linde’s four-year-old friend next door had it, in our old place. Off course, it had us worried. Linde, sweet smelling, pink Linde, is a mosquito magnet, her legs spotted so we get frequently asked whether she has chicken pox. We soon decided that the citronella Singaporean parents use on their children wasn’t strong enough, and we slathered DEET, liberally, on her and Jasmijn. Tijm, I boasted, had inherited my genes, and had never had a mosquito bit since we moved to Singapore. 

Life, like mosquitos, attacks in unexpected places. Our new jungly neighbourhood is full of big, stripy tiger mosquitos, but not as full of people, so the risk should, in theory, be low. Then, one day, two weeks ago, we visited a neighbour who was unwell. Although she had all the symptoms, she tested negative for dengue, but we sprayed the girls liberally with DEET anyhow, as, well, you never know.

Now, you don’t know, and later that week Tijm was the one who fell ill. He had a temperature, pain in his legs, and not much later developed a blotchy rash. He could not walk. I hurried him to the hospital, where, Tijm in his sister’s buggy, we ran into the same neighbour. They had just done more blood tests. The doctor told me the same he told her. There are a dozen viruses that can produce symptoms like the one she and Tijm were experiencing, dengue only one of them. Luckily, Tijm tested negative. We were then told all the other viruses were not as dangerous, would not kill Tijm, and as they were viruses had one thing in common: there was no cure. Bed rest, plenty of fluids, and he would be ok in about a week. Based on the symptoms he suspected the chikungunya virus, a virus one whose main symptoms are severe joint pains, and itchy rashes, similar to those of dengue, but much less dangerous.

Two weeks and positive blood tests later, I am not too proud to state that I can now pronounce the name of this disease without breaking my tongue. I can tell you that that weird name means ‘that which bends up’ in Makonde language, and I can also guess why they would name it that. And, I can spell it too, chikungunya, without faltering. After Tijm bounced up from five days of tv and unlimited Ipad, daddy has been stricken, and now I, myself have too. I worry for my girls, my mosquito magnet girls. But Linde scratches her numerous bites indifferently, till they bleed, and, so far, is standing strong.


  1. Oh no! Hope you all get better soon!! I do hate the sound of that name..

  2. Sounds nasty .... Hope you already feel a little better by now. The bad news is that they expect the tiger mosquito to show up in the Netherlands as well ....

  3. hope you recover quickly. Ive heard it can make your joints very painful. Speedy recovery. x

  4. Thanks all! Thankfully I am much better, unfortunately my joints are still a bit achy, apparently if you already have arthritis, like me, it can take quite long to shake that :(

  5. Hello, I found your blog from your post on the FB expat wives thread. You are delightful to read, your descriptions are fresh and real, and I read all the way back to to when you started blogging again in Singapore. Thanks for an enjoyable hour!


    1. Thank you so much, what a lovely compliment, you made my evening :)