Don't take dengue for granted!

Friday, 9 August 2013

I have to admit, that prior to attending the workshop jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and People's Association (PA) last June, I knew next to nothing about Dengue Fever. Yes, I was well aware that the number of cases reported have reached alarming levels, it is life threatening, and survivors speak of a horrific experience battling the disease, but that was all I knew of it.

I wasn't aware that:
  • There is no vaccine for dengue and there is no specific treatment.
  • There are 4 different strains of the virus, and so it is entirely possible to get dengue multiple times.
  • It has three stages and each one is worse than the last.
  • Dengue is spread via the bite of an Aedes mosquito which has previously bitten an infected person.
  • Aedes mosquitoes just need stagnant water about the size of a 20c coin to breed successfully.
  • The risk of being bitten is highest during the early morning, several hours after daybreak, and in the late afternoon before sunset, although they feed at any time during the day.
  • The animal that is responsible for the most human deaths worldwide is the mosquito!
  • Mosquitoes prefer children to adults.

Coincidentally, just two days after I attended the workshop, I found out that a close friend was diagnosed with dengue fever. She was complaining about feeling feverish and being extremely exhausted, but we both attributed it to work related stress. She had all the classic flu symptoms, and chose to self medicate until her husband found her sprawled on the floor, drifting in and out of consciousness.

The doctor took one look at her, spotted the rashes, and a blood test confirmed his initial suspicion. She had Dengue Fever, and her condition was serious enough for him to request immediate hospital admittance.

She told me it was easily the worst week of her entire life.
"Imagine thousands of tiny ants crawling up and down your skin. Their march intensifies when you try to rest. Then there's that constant pounding in your head, which travels up and down - from the back of your head, to the back of your eyes. You are delusional. You hear things, you see things which aren't there. Your joints feel like they are being twisted and ripped apart, over and over again. The itch all over the body just made the suffering complete. I will not wish it on my worst enemy."
Like many of us, she never thought that it would happen to her. She doesn't know if she had been bitten at home, or at work (both of which were red dengue zones). I remember walking into the ward, sitting by her side, and thinking how dengue doesn't choose its victims. I saw children crying, scratching themselves raw, and I cannot imagine how torturous it is for them.

When I went off from the hospital that day, I have never been more resolute to raise the awareness about dengue. Only through proper education and information are we able to stop the spread. Dengue fever is a disease which we can control to a certain extent. If everyone in the community do their part in containing its spread, I'm sure that there will be less cases occurring.

Prevention and Control

We can prevent mosquitoes from breeding by ensuring that the environment is not conducive for them. This involves scrubbing thoroughly, covering, and emptying containers whereby water can remain stagnant on a weekly basis.


We can take note of the common breeding sites in the home, and do what we can to ensure that these areas are properly maintained. Spray insecticides on dark corners of the home, especially under furniture and hard to reach places.

Breeding sites at home


Breeding sites outside the home


Install wire mesh screens on windows.

Image source

Ensure that all containers are dried prior to storage, and those which are used to store water are covered. Flower vases should always be scrubbed, cleaned and dried thoroughly to prevent the eggs from sticking to the walls and hatching upon contact with water.

Remember that fogging is not as effective as eliminating stagnant water. Mosquitoes will return after the fogging process and the air clears.

Avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes by using a suitable repellent. Use those with 'DEET' listed as one of its active ingredients, as this has proven to be effective against Aedes mosquitoes. Those who are confirmed or suspected Dengue patients should use a mosquito repellent, along with their family members and loved ones.

Additionally, avoid wearing dark coloured clothes. Aedes mosquitoes are attracted by dark colours.

Containing the spread of dengue is a community effort and more people should be made aware of how to easily prevent its spread with a few effective measures in place. Doing the 5-step mozzie wipeout is a first step effort to prevent the breeding of the Aedes mosquito.

A few minutes is all it takes, but its effects may mean the difference between life and death.

***

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 and experience are my own. My friend is thankfully on the mend, but she is tremendously fatigued, and is still suffering from the after effects of the virus.

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