A June 6 story in the New York Post revealed why wide receiver David Nelson missed his first week of voluntary practices with the team. After suffering a mosquito bite while on a humanitarian mission to Haiti, he became ill with a high fever and strep throat. “I was quarantined,” Nelson said.
Nelson has been assisting with humanitarian efforts in Haiti for some time and spent about six weeks in the country during football’s off season. He is currently working with his brothers through their not for profit I’m Me to address the problem of orphans in that impoverished nation. The devastating earthquake in 2010 and the wide range of infections illnesses plaguing Haiti have produced a large number of children with no parents or who have been abandoned by their parents.
Haiti has a number of mosquito borne illnesses including malaria, dengue and chikungunya. Tuberculosis, HIV and cholera are also widespread though not transmitted by mosquitoes. Nelson’s comments to the Post do not identify his diagnosis. The Jets kept him from camp until he was recovered, for his own benefit as well as that of the other players.
The Caribbean, and the island of Hispaniola, are suffering an outbreak of chikungunya. This mosquito borne illness was unknown in the Americas until Dec. 2014. It first appeared in the Dominican Republic, on Hispaniola, in late March of 2014 and in Haiti, on the western side of the island, in early May. There is no vaccine or cure. Dr. Jen Halverson, on Twitter from Haiti, reports that she is seeing at least 50 percent of the population with symptoms.
Dengue, an illness caused by one of four related viruses, has been endemic in Haiti for two decades. It can produce upper respiratory symptoms along with joint pain, fever and a rash. There is no vaccine or cure. It can be confused with chikungunya though patients who have experience both generally say that the pain from chikungunya is much worse. Dengue can be fatal in a few cases when it results in a hemorrhagic fever.
Malaria is also prevalent in Haiti but can be prevented with the daily use of medications. The Haitian population has little access to these but most aid workers should be protected from this mosquito borne illness. The symptoms of malaria are unlike those for chikungunya or dengue, and there are medications to treat an infection.
Without further information, we cannot know what it was that David Nelson caught in Haiti. He seems to have recovered well and is now participating in camp and taking part in the drills. Jets fans can look forward to his stellar play on the field in the fall.