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27 July 2020
While all eyes are fixed on the pandemic, health officials are now reminding the public not to forget the dengue fever situation. Each year, an estimated 390 million people are infected with dengue outbreaks occurring in parts of Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa. More than 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of dengue infection, making it a continuing global health threat.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Millions of dengue infection cases occur worldwide each year and it is most common in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific islands, but the disease has been increasing rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean. The fever is caused by viruses that are passed onto humans through the bites of an infective female Aedes mosquito, which mainly acquires the virus while feeding on the blood of an infected person. According WHO, the peak of the dengue season is usually around June to August during the rainy season.
If you contract dengue fever, symptoms usually begin about four to seven days after the initial infection. In many cases, symptoms will be mild and can often be mistaken for symptoms of the flu or another infection. Young children and people who have never experienced infection may have a milder illness than older children and adults. Symptoms generally last for about 10 days and can include:
There is no vaccine or specific medication for dengue fever. If you believe that you’re down with dengue, you should seek medical advice, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Paracetamol can be taken to bring down fever and reduce joint pains. However, aspirin or ibuprofen should not be taken since they can increase the risk of bleeding. During the first week of infection, dengue virus can be found in your blood. If a mosquito bites you, it can become infected and spread the virus to other people through bites.
The best method of protection is to avoid mosquito bites and to reduce the mosquito population. When in a high-risk area, you should:
Reducing the mosquito population involves getting rid of mosquito breeding areas and these include any place that still water can collect, such as:
These areas should be checked, emptied, or changed regularly.
Myth 1: I will get dengue after being bitten by any mosquito
The dengue virus is transmitted only by female Aedes mosquitos. Transmission of the virus happens only after it has bitten an infected human. Aedes mosquitoes are intermittent biters and prefer to bite more than one person during their feeding period, and they are capable of biting anyone throughout the day.
Myth 2: Dengue is harmless
Usually, some people get mild cases which do not exhibit any severe symptoms. Most people get fever, rash, muscle/joint ache, headache, nausea and/or diarrhea.
Although less common, there are those who develop severe dengue fever with symptoms which can include internal bleeding, breathing difficulty, liver failure, confusion and drop in blood pressure. Without timely medical intervention, this can be life-threatening.
Myth 3: Papaya leaf juice can cure dengue
Papaya leaf juice has been shown to induce a rapid rise in platelet count but it is not scientifically proven to cure dengue. The management of dengue is hydration, close monitoring and support during the critical phase of the illness.
Myth 4: Only young children and the elderly are at risk
Everyone, regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic background, are at risk of getting dengue. In Malaysia, the disease is most common in adolescents and young adults (between age 15 and 31 years). It potentially affects those with pre-existing conditions such as obesity, diabetes or immune system problems more severely.
Myth 5: I am not at risk because my house is clean
As long as there are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Aedes mosquitoes can breed, and even live with you. They can also fly in from your neighbour’s house as the Aedes mosquito’s flight range is up to 400 metres.
A person infected with dengue, especially when asymptomatic (showing no symptoms), becomes a “mobile transmitter” and can infect others without knowing. In addition, people are not confined to their homes at all times. They work, go to school and conduct outdoor activities, so you’re continually at risk for exposure.
It's important to remember that prevention is key to fighting this disease. Drink lots of water and get lots of rest should you start feeling unwell. Always check with your healthcare providers or doctors before consuming any traditional remedies or engaging in any form of alternative medication.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.