Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Dengue Story

Although my motto is to try everything in life, I am pretty sure dengue virus is something I would not wish to try. I never knew how it felt when one catches dengue fever, but I do recall the various TV advertisements by the authorities meant to drive home the importance of eradicating mosquito breeding sites that are within our controls. I also know that it causes joint pains and fever, and is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, but that is just about it I know. It felt kind of distant, that was until my sister-in-law shared her personal story with me.

The “Flu” 

My sister-in-law is a tuition teacher. Being self-employed, it is only natural that she works really hard for the family. She rarely took any off-days or medical leaves but there was this period last year when she came down with flu-like symptoms, accompanied by a fever. Thinking nothing much of it, she only self-medicated with some paracetamol. However the pain and fever persisted, and even intensified at times.

The “Burn” 

Even though she took sips of water non-stop throughout the day to keep herself hydrated, she still felt as if her body was burning inside. She also had this nagging feeling that her internal organs might fail should she stopped drinking water to cool herself. She continued to hold on to the hope of bringing her own temperature down from 41°C, recover, and get back to work as soon as possible because every day spent resting meant a day’s earning down the drain.

The Nasty “Surprise” 

She never really knew about the severity of her condition and it was only when she discovered bleeding in her nether region that the red flag was raised. She then knew that it was something serious and rushed down to her gynecologist. She was advised to get to the hospital quickly as her symptoms resembled dengue fever, and she was already in quite a bad shape by then. She declined an ambulance, but was driven to Tan Tock Seng hospital by my brother nevertheless.

The “Vacation” 

With that, she started her 5 day stay in Tan Tock Seng hospital. Her blood platelet count went far below 5,000 per microliter of blood and was ordered drips and full bed-rest! Her feet were not even allowed to touch the ground, and she had to rely solely on the nurses for everything, even toileting. Thankfully her condition improved, and she regained strength as her blood platelet count slowly increased. It was a harrowing experience for her and I can still sense her fear as she recounted her ordeal. In her own words, she was really on the brink of death.

Your Dengue is NOT necessarily My Dengue 

You may have heard of people contracting dengue fever but managed to recover on their own back at home. But a simple dengue infection can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever (like what happened to my sister-in-law) that can lead to disastrous outcomes if not treated in time.

There are four serotypes of this virus (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4), with one dominant strain at any one time. One can develop immunity from the strain that infected him / her but will still remain susceptible to the other 3 strains.

Never Truly Safe 

My sister-in-law found out that she caught the virus at one of her student's home because he was also down with dengue fever (albeit a less serious case) during the same period and it was traced back to the construction site just beside his house. However the top mosquito breeding sites still remains to be the containers, pots, plants and toilet cisterns within our own residential premises.

Having no specific medications for dengue fever, any treatment given is to simply alleviate the symptoms of this potentially life-threatening condition. The neighbourhood you live in may not be a dengue cluster, but NEVER forget that it takes less than an hour to get from one end of the island to the other.

We need to do our part to keep mosquitoes in check and we should all start with our homes. Do you know that it may only takes a day for an Aedes mosquito egg to hatch, 4 days to grow into a pupa and 2 days to emerge as an adult? Just one week and a killer will be on the loose.

Share Your Story 

Do you have a dengue story of your own to share? It would be great if you could share with us on how you managed to get through the trying period. Tell your story (or that of your friend or loved ones) here or on my Facebook post with the hashtag, #MyDengueStory and spread the awareness to prevent dengue!

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