ATLANTA -- Ervin Santana usually uses his Twitter account to post inspirational quotes, celebrate when the Braves win and use his signature catchphrase #SmellBaseball. But the pitcher adopted a more serious tone recently regarding the chikungunya virus.
Santana informed his more than 85,000 followers of the mosquito-borne virus that has taken hold of his native Dominican Republic. His parents, his sister, his grandmother and several other family members have been just a few of the 251,880 infected.
That number, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounts for nearly 2.5 percent of the Dominican Republic's population of 10.3 million people.
"It's a very dangerous disease," Santana said. "It's going on in the Dominican, and I hear it's now here in Florida. It's really bad. My family has it."
The virus, common to Asia, Africa and Europe, recently spread to the Caribbean and has appeared in Florida this week. Although the virus is not deadly, it possesses numerous extreme symptoms that include high fevers measuring up to 104 degrees, swelling and pain in the joints, muscle pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue and rashes.
"You have a lot of pain in your joints, you don't have energy," said Santana, grabbing a ballpoint pen from his locker. "Just trying to lift a pen, it's too heavy for you."
Santana said the condition of his affected family members is improving, but that the virus stays in your system for a year following infection. Although a CNN report indicates the chikungunya virus won't have nearly as dramatic effect in the U.S. as it has in the Dominican Republic, Santana still wants to create awareness.
"It's tough, but we've just got to try and find a way to keep it away from everybody," Santana said. "So we just have to talk to doctors to find out what is the best medicine for that."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less