THERE are now 80,000+ cases of dengue, compared to 53,000 + cases at the same time last year. There is an alarming 60% increase in the incidence of dengue and the numbers are rising every day. Hospitals both private and government-run are full of dengue case, and even the so-called "dengue fast lanes" are also filled with long queues of patients. Those figures notwithstanding, public health authorities - for some reasons hard to understand- have not announced or proclaimed an "epidemic".
Aside from the worrisome rise, what's new with dengue? A big part of the article is from an interview with Dr. Suzanne Santos, adult infectious disease specialist at the St. Luke Global City Hospital who said that dengue has now three classification; dengue without symptoms- persons who has the virus but the infection is kept at bay by the person's own immune system, dengue with symptoms like headache, redness of the eyes, joint pains, abdominal pains, nausea and vomiting and the rash which typically appears when the fever goes down- Hermann's rash- white islets in a sea of red. The worst case scenario is the much dreaded dengue hemorrhagic shock wherein there is massive bleeding, both externally as in epistaxis or nose bleeding, gum bleeding , with worse internal bleeding, which if not attended to immediately leads to death of the patient.
Blood tests are the first screening test so to speak, with white blood cell count initially low but as the disease progresses, the white blood cell count increases but this time, the platelet or thrombocyte count drastically decreases, accompanied by a sudden fall of blood pressure.
Dengue Dot test would confirm the presence of the infection- better done when the rash appears. Usually, in the first 3-5 days, it is the Dengue Antigen test and followed by the Antibody Igg Duo test.
Being a viral infection, there is no specific treatment for dengue. Dr. Santos emphasized that for those who need to be hospitalized, hydration is of paramount importance. Of course, supportive and symptomatic treatment like analgesics- pain relievers and antipyretics- fever lowering drugs help keep the patient comfortable. The lady doctor emphasized that blood transfusions, i.e., platelets, contrary to what many people believe, are not routinely done and doing do rest on the better judgment of the attending physician depending on the progress or deterioration of the illness.
There is now the vaccine Dengvaxia, which was approved by the WHO, usually given to persons from 9-45 years of age. The first vaccine is given with another one after 6 months and one year after the first vaccination. As of the moment here is no protocol as to whether booster doses are needed in the future. Suffice it to say, that the Denvaxia is supposed to provide protection from the four strains of the dengue virus.
Of course, prevention is still the order of the day. Environmental sanitation and cleanliness top the list of preventive measures.
Practical and common sense habits like wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, changing the water in vases, discarding all collected waters in cans and other household containers, sleeping under mosquito nets. The Aedes aegypti mosquito- he female- used to be thought to bite 2 hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. However, observations by epidemiologist as well as infectious disease experts concede that the mosquito could bit anytime of the day, so let us not let our guard down.
From the looks of it, the dengue menace has become a yearlong health problem. Let us not be victims.