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Dengue

March 18, 2014

Cases of Dengue will always rise during the rainy season, but the vector does live year round and thus you are always at risk. So here are some reminders.

What is it?

Dengue is a nasty flu-like illness caused by a virus, and spread by an infected mosquito having a blood meal off you. The Aedes mosquito which spreads the virus nearly always bites during the day specifically in the 3 hours around dawn and the 3 hours around sunset.

Where and when is it found?

Dengue fever is increasingly being found world-wide. After malaria it’s one of the most common tropical illnesses affecting travellers. It is prominent across the whole of Indonesia. The mosquito has adapted to specifically live in our houses and offices. You are as likely to get it in a city as out in the country, however big epidemics occur in cities. It is more common in the rainy season as there are more mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms?

Severe muscle and joint ache (in the old days it was known as Breakbone Fever), headache, fever and rash, the whole illness coming on very suddenly. However, many people get a milder version.

Dengue often seems to get better then comes back again hence another name for it is Saddleback Fever. Usually the worst symptoms are over in a week, though it can take time, sometimes many weeks, to get your energy back.

There is a more severe form of Dengue called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever with bleeding into the skin and other organs. This tends to affect local people who are poor and malnourished and is very rare in travellers. Yet it does occur and there is no evidence why some get it and some do not.

Dengue is a very real nuisance but rarely leaves any lasting problems.

How can I avoid getting it?

It’s not easy but possible.

  • Keep covered in the day.
  • Use an effective repellent such as DEET (Citronella or Vitamin B have no scientific base).
  • Sleep with a bednet
  • Keep houses and offices screened (doors and windows).
  • Use an insecticide in the house or office preferably use a residual spray.
  • You could also treat your clothes with a repellent.
  • Reduce and remove mosquito breeding sites
  • If you hear of an outbreak then increase your adherence to the precautions.
  • There is no vaccine.

What do I do if I get it?

Because it mimics malaria you should see a doctor and get a malaria blood test. If the diagnosis of Dengue seems likely then rest, keep up your fluids, take a painkiller (not aspirin based) and be patient. Get back to work and normal life slowly. It may take up to a month or two to get all your energy back, and sometimes you can feel a bit low afterwards.

With thanks to PW and the Red Cross

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