Dengue Prevention: Our Lives, Our Fight.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

"I didn't think it would happen to me!" is a general echo that many dengue sufferers claim when they find out that they have the virus. I'm not sure whether to call it complacency, or ignorance. Perhaps we have been so used to relatively 'clean' environments and high standards of medical care available in Singapore, so much so that many of us are simply indifferent towards the current epidemic we are currently facing.

With a record number of 816 dengue cases reported in a single week of June 2013, Singapore is seeing an outbreak which threatens to escalate even further with the onset of the monsoon season, higher humidity levels and the increase in temperatures.

Dengue is life threatening, and death can occur in certain cases. There is no dengue vaccine yet in Singapore.

I was fortunate to be invited to a workshop jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and People's Association (PA) as parts of its efforts to raise awareness about dengue fever and rally the community in preventing its spread. Graced by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health & Ministry of Transport), the event brings together key personnel and volunteers spearheading the fight against dengue. It culminated in house visits led by the Minister, whereby 'survival' packs were distributed to households.



During the workshop, I had a few of those: 'oh wow I didn't know that!' moments, and made a mental note to ensure that follow up is done at home. I was also made aware that the threat is very real, and understanding more about dengue will tremendously help in ensuring that preventive steps can be effectively carried out.

Babies, pregnant women, children and older people have a weaker immune system and thus susceptible to Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS), severe forms of dengue which causes bleeding under the skin and results in shock due to low blood count. These tend to be prevalent in children under the age of ten, with death resulting from circulatory collapse.

As a parent of a young child, I am extremely concerned about the threat of dengue and how it can affect us, especially since the boy goes to school in an area which has been identified as a 'red' zone. He goes to my in-laws' after school, just across the street from school - in a 'yellow' zone.


What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is caused by the transmission of a virus by an Aedes mosquito, which acts as a vector when it bites a person who is already infected. There are 4 strains of the virus (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 or DEN-4), and therefore it is entirely possible to contract dengue fever multiple times as you will only be rendered immune to one particular strain at a time.

Dengue is not contagious and does not spread by physical contact.

Life cycle of the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus
Symptoms

The thing about dengue is that the symptoms can be mistaken for a normal fever or just a general feeling of being 'unwell'. Many people don't bear the full brunt of a dengue fever, and do not exhibit serious symptoms enough to even warrant a visit to the doctor. I use over the counter medication when I feel unwell, too, and when the demands of life takes over, it's all too easy to simply let the illness run its course.
  • High fever (which can last for 7 days, and does not respond to medication)
  • Severe headache
  • Joints and body ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Rashes
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment

Should you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Ensuring that you are well rested and drinking plenty of fluids are also first step treatment measures. A hospital stay is recommended when symptoms escalate to include severe stomach pain and persistent vomiting, as these suggest dengue haemorrhagic fever.

Avoid places which may have mosquitoes present, as getting bitten by an Aedes mosquito will then spread the virus. People affected by dengue fever should recover within 2 weeks.

Protection and prevention

The best way to protect yourself against contracting dengue fever is to prevent yourself from getting bitten. The Aedes mosquito only feeds during the day, and breeds in clean stagnant water. This is why their breeding grounds tend to be indoors, specifically in dark, damp areas. It takes only a 'pool' of water the size of a 20c coin for them to take flight. Furthermore, I was really alarmed to find out during the workshop that the eggs which attach themselves to containers or vases can lay dormant for years - and then continue the life cycle when water is introduced again.

To illustrate this point, assuming that you take out that huge vase (which is otherwise stored) to put in fresh flowers for a festive occasion. The vase is then rinsed, dried and kept away. Aedes mosquito eggs present then stay in the vase, and hatch the next time water is reintroduced into the vase! To prevent this from happening, ensure that all vases or containers are scrubbed clean and dried thoroughly before storage.
Get rid of stagnant water in and around your home, and spray insecticide regularly in dark corners of the home.







10-minute 5-step Mozzie Wipeout




In an effort to increase public awareness and ensuring that the community does its part in containing the dengue epidemic, The National Environment Agency has developed a quick routine which can be done by everyone. 10 minutes is all it takes, and these 10 minutes can make a difference between life and death.
  • Change water in vases/bowls on alternate days
  • Turn over all water storage containers
  • Cover bamboo pole holders when not in use
  • Clear blockages and put BTI insecticide in roof gutters monthly
  • Remove water from flower pot plates on alternate days

I have friends and family who have suffered through dengue. Fortunately, they have recovered completely, although it was a harrowing experience for everyone involved. Prevention is the only ammunition we have against these silent killers, and the community must do its part to contain the spread.

The danger is that anyone, anywhere, can be infected. The next time you think: "No, it won't happen to me" - think again. There is really no telling who will be the next national statistic.

Don't let it be you.

***

Join the Stop.Dengue.Now! Facebook page for updates and dengue survivor experiences. For live updates, follow @NEAsg on Twitter. More information here.

Disclaimer: This is a community awareness message brought to you by NEA in collaboration with MummyMoo. All opinions are my own, unless stated.

1 comment :

  1. Great information, i think if we have right information of how to take precautions we can fight with such diseases, thank you so much for sharing article on dengue with so much details.

    ReplyDelete

 

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