Dengue fever, something most of us here in Singapore have been conditioned to fear since we were in Primary School. From the 10 minute mozzie wipeout to that one corny mosquito song you probably heard someone playing in the computer lab, Dengue is certainly no joke, which is something I can now personally attest to. But firstly, what even is Dengue?
Dengue fever is a disease caused by the dengue virus which is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infective Aedes Aegypti mosquito. There are four different serotypes of dengue virus (DENV1 to 4) circulating in the world, including Singapore. Hence, individuals can be infected with dengue up to four times. Hearsay is that the second infection onwards is a lot more severe so you can bet thats something thats been influencing my decision to get the dengue vaccine.
Some symptoms of dengue fever include:
- Sudden onset of fever for 2 to 7 days
- Severe headache with pain behind the eyes
- Joint and muscle pain
- Skin rashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mild bleeding (e.g. nose or gum bleed, or easy bruising of the skin)
In just the first half of 2022, 5,500 dengue cases were reported. In 2021? 5,258 for the entire year. Some say the spike in cases could have been due to climate change with more wet weather allowing for more pockets of mosquitoes to breed. In any case, it’s clear that cases are on the rise which means it’s a good time to spread awareness for the disease itself.
My family has always hated mosquitos with a passion. From occasionally carpet bombing our garden with insecticide when more than 1 mosquito appears in our house to mosquito coils and getting up at 3am to hunt down that one little mosquito biting us in our sleep, i’d like to think we take our anti-mosquito stance pretty seriously. It was then a bit of a surprise when we found out that both My dad and I had somehow gotten dengue. Below is a somewhat detailed account of my experience with it.
Woke up feeling a little under the weather but nothing too bad (Sort of attributed it to not having been able to fall asleep the previous night) but was pretty much okay for the most part until I started to get a fever later in the evening of around 38.3 degrees. At this point we had suspected I had gastroenteritis or just some food poisoning.
Still had a fever today which didn’t really go down much from the previous day if it all. Was still taking Panadol cold every now and then to bring the temperature down to a toasty 37.7 degrees. Also began to notice some pain developing behind my eye sockets whenever I would press down on it.
3rd day and was starting to get a little concerned that all the coconut water and chrysanthemum tea was not bringing down my temperature still and decided to head down to my local GP to get a physical examination done. Probably should have done a blood test here and now but was slightly put off by the 80 dollar price tag on it. Lesson learned, never skimp out on health guys. Anyways, I was started on Ciprofloxacin in case it really was just a nasty stomach bug causing all this. Follow up in 2 days.
Wake up feeling absolutely wrecked on Day 4. Nauseous and with the same fever. Still haven’t vomited yet but also noticed a bit of a red rash appearing on my arms. Before hitting the panic button, decide to have a word with some of the nice doctors on our panel with Dr Nat letting me know that it could either be an allergic reaction to the antibiotics or Dengue. Still a little early to tell but tomorrow is the day we find out. Also my mom started making me take Ling Yang or the Chinese Saiga Deer horn.
Head to the GP to get a blood test done, and surprise! Its Dengue! The rash has started to spread to my legs and abdomen but at least my fever has started to come down a little bit to 37.6 degrees. Platelet count was around 144 so still good for now. Took the last dose of panadol to hopefully put this fever away for good. Also began taking some papaya leaf extract pills to counter the platelet drop.
Made an attempt to jump on an online work call and had absolutely no energy. Every sentence required a concentrated effort and I was sweating like a pig. Here’s where the next round of fun begins. I have never felt such awful itchiness before in my life. As the fever broke, the rash started to get worse and boy was it itchy. I read that it may have to do with the platelet count dropping or our body trying to reabsorb leaked plasma and starting the recovery process but the itchiness was so bad I couldn’t sleep for almost the entire night.
Went back to the doctor for a follow up platelet test. Went down from 144 to 141 so not a huge dip and was told that I didn’t need to do any further tests. Still continuing with my papaya extract pills. At least the itching has started to stop and I can finally get a nap in after last night.
Starting to feel like my old self again and coincidentally it happens to be Thanksgiving. Energy levels aren’t back to 100% and don’t expect it to be there for the next 1-2 weeks. Fell asleep while attempting to do some work earlier in the day.
Overall, I would rate the experience with Dengue as probably one of the worst I’ve felt ever. Its the combination of the fever, nausea and exhaustion that basically stops you from having the energy to do basically anything. Add in that horrible rash on the tail end of recovery and what more can you ask for, you basically have the least enjoyable way to fall sick.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t eligible for the dengue vaccine until they have gotten infected at least once. According to Professor Paul Tambyah, the President-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, this is because the vaccine works by priming the immune system and acts as a first infection. However, as the vaccine is not powerful enough against all four strains of dengue, it could therefore lead to an immune overreaction during a subsequent dengue infection.
On the bright side, there are new therapeutics on the way that could potentially kill dengue within 6 hours rather than having to suffer like me for 1-2 weeks. An injection filled with antibodies against the dengue virus itself could help to prevent the onset of serious disease and save a lot of lives (and suffering) in the process. Furthermore, the antibodies could prevent the mosquitoes from transmitting the dengue virus as well.
Would really not recommend anyone to catch dengue, it’s really quite an unpleasant experience on top of being dangerous. As cliche as it sounds, taking simple steps to stop mosquito breeding, such as by pouring away stagnant water and using oil tablets, is likely the best way to prevent getting dengue in the first place.
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