Illustration
Jaymee L. Amores
Two down & two to go, a.k.a. I’m a health statistic
WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2019 - 12:00am

In late July, as I read a news report about the ongoing dengue epidemic, and how in the period from January to July of this year alone, there have been 491 reported deaths and 115,986 reported cases of dengue, I wanted to scream out 115,987! Because despite having contracted the virus some four years ago, the Aedes mosquito had struck again, felling me with a second dengue serotype — there are apparently four known DENV serotypes. While one does gain immunity to the serotype one succumbed to, it doesn’t preclude one from falling victim to the other strains. And yes, that’s Dengue Fact No. 1.

Endemic to tropical countries such as the Philippines, the carrier for the dengue virus is the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito, distinguished by the white markings on its legs, and lower thorax — Dengue Fact No. 2. I really hate these mosquitoes, as I thought it would only be fresh, young blood they would be after — hence the prevalence of cases involving infants and children. But no, they don’t discriminate; or there exists an Aedes substrata who enjoy the finely aged, oak-barreled, vintage blood that courses through my coarse and time-hardened senior citizen veins.

And honestly, asked when and where was I bitten, I couldn’t place it. That’s how devious and unsuspecting they are. I started feeling chills in my bones on a Sunday evening, which meant the bite would have happened Wednesday or Thursday, and those were regular work days at the office, with events and movie screenings. So it wasn’t like I decided to stand beside a puddle of stagnant, fetid water, or killed time in a marsh or swamp. In fact, these mosquitoes thrive in cool, shaded places like closets; and often repeatedly bite at your ankles and exposed feet. And they’re most prevalent in the early morning AND early evening — Dengue Fact No. 3.

When I felt the chills Sunday evening, and began to experience diarrhea, I presumed it was a case of food poisoning. You never want to believe the worse, right? And after the truly debilitating case of dengue I previously had in 2015 — confined in the hospital for four days, my platelets went down to below 20,000 (ideal count is from 150,000 to 400,000), you’re hoping that by not considering dengue, it won’t be the reality. Fortunately, Issa (Litton) insisted I take a blood test Tuesday morning, and lo and behold, I was positive for the dengue virus.

If you want to call it luck, I had rested all of Monday; and treating it as a stomach virus, had gorged on Hydrite, Gatorade and a lot of liquids, which must have helped. The fever had broken late Monday night, and my platelets were still in a respectable 240,000 range. My sister, Libet, got me in touch with Dr. Abad Santos, and he wasn’t prescribing confinement for now, and just asked that I repeat the blood tests the following day.

Generally, there are three types of reactions to dengue (Dengue Fact No. 4): there’s Mild Dengue Fever, which is what I experienced this second instance; and there’s Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, similar to what I had during the first attack. And then, there’s Dengue Shock Syndrome, the most serious type, which, like the second, if not properly monitored and treated, can lead to death.

Given dengue’s prevalence over the years, posting something on social media about my having it elicited a host of well wishing, and recommendations on home remedies — from tawa-tawa, to coco nectar, kamote tops and papaya leaves. Seems everyone has his or her version of the one that cured his or her relative, neighbor or friend. And I wish some medical research facility would do some study, seeing if all the above share some common properties that could be turned into part of the protocol when handling dengue cases. For now, the official stand is to let it run its course, as no real cure exists (the sad Dengue Fact No. 5).

More saddening was how some people would wish me speedy recovery while making mention of how a loved one, more often than not, a child, had succumbed to dengue, and passed away. Make no bones about it, dengue is a killer virus; and that there’s still so much ignorance and disinformation surrounding it, is the sadder fact.

The “play” is about prevention foremost, so the more useful information the DOH can disseminate, the better chances we have of combatting it. In the meantime, the fact that it’s been declared as having reached epidemic proportions in some areas of our nation is of grave concern. My only personal silver lining would be that if ever bitten again, I’m now 50-percent immune to all dengue serotypes.

DENGUE EPIDEMIC
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