This week I have had to make time. I have just emerged from the fog of Dengue Fever – a tropical disease that worries most expats. I don’t usually write such personal posts, but by sharing my experience it might give a little insight into the symptoms to look out for.
How do you catch Dengue Fever?
I haven’t really worked out of the point of mosquitos yet, and they are the main culprit in spreading Dengue Fever. To prevent getting Dengue you need to prevent getting bitten. Your compound may use fogging as a means of keeping the mosquito population down. Mosquitos breed in water so make sure there is no standing water in your garden/ balcony: This includes potted plant saucers. Dengue is carried by several types of mosquitos, including the black and white striped zebra mosquitos, which can bite at any time of night and day, not just dawn and dusk. However, not every mosquito is a carrier – just enough to make you paranoid. Covering up and using mosquito repellant is the best line of defence. Never again will I curse when the fogging man comes round and I’ve forgotten to shut the window. The good news is that it is not contagious. Your children cannot catch it from you, although they are at risk if there is a Dengue mosquito around.
What is Dengue Fever like?
Each patient reacts differently. The bad news is that in a small number of cases, Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, can be life-threatening. The main risk is a fall in your platelet count, causing Dengue hemorrhagic fever. This results in bleeding, blood plasma leakage and dangerously low blood pressure, and is dealt with by a blood transfusion.
For most people, Dengue is uncomfortable and tiring. You need to drink plenty, and may need intravenous fluid. After ten days, I feel almost normal but very tired. The best advice is to take it easy and accept it takes time to recover.
What is the treatment for Dengue Fever?
There are no antiviral drugs to ease the symptoms directly. You may be given folic acid, and anti-acid prescriptions, in order to avoid stomach bleeding. Your doctor may be able to give you something for the nausea and an antihistamine for the itching. The best treatment is rest and drinking plenty of fluids – you just have to ride it out. I was asked to drink up to ten litres a day.
I visited the hospital daily for intravenous drips and blood tests, which checked my platelet levels and my liver function. I declined their kind offer of hospitality, but was a borderline case.
There is no vaccine, and the risks are higher if you catch it a second time.
· Two days of “crawling” skin, similar to flu;
· Two days of aching muscles and joints as if I’d just run a marathon;
· A week of lethargy, restlessness and poor sleep;
· Loss of appetite, nausea;
· Headaches, chills, weakness, dehydration;
· Memory blindspots;
· Low energy and general tiredness;
· Low platelet count – Mine reached 90, and it is possible to be hospitalized for a blood transfusion if the count drops too low.
· A rash that covers the body and can be intensely itchy, or feel like extreme pins and needles. This is due to blood leaking out of the blood vessels.
· The symptoms can be similar to chikunhunya, which is also spread by mosquitos, and causes joint pain.
Looking for more information?
Singapore currently has a number of red zones, classified by the number of confirmed Dengue cases. The Singapore National Environment Agency takes Dengue very seriously and all cases are reported to them. An official may contact you to find out where you think you caught it. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to send the culprit to an identity parade.
If you want to check the area you live visit: http://www.x-dengue.com/
National Environment Agency: http://www.dengue.gov.sg/
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