Up until June, few South Africans had ever heard of dengue fever. But that all changed when SA hockey captain Austin Smith and player Jonty Robinson contracted the virus while on tour in Malaysia.
But here’s the scary part, because dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness, it’s actually listed as one of Southern Africa’s most infectious diseases. Yet, very people even know it exists.
That changes today!
What is dengue fever?
“Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is a mosquito-borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness,” explains medicalnewstoday.com. This virus, which is closely related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever, is common in urban parts of subtropical and tropical areas in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
It’s so common, in fact, last year over 390 people reported infections around the world. Today, the World Health Organisation estimates that as much as two-fifths of the global population face the risk of contracting this virus.
So it’s vital you know how to spot the signs… Especially if you travel to these regions often.
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
According to webMD, symptoms, which usually begin four to six days after infection and last for up to ten days, include:
Sounds just like malaria, doesn’t it. And that’s what makes contracting dengue fever so dangerous. It’s hard to distinguish it from other illnesses.
If you contact dengue fever, what should you do?
Since dengue is a virus, there’s no specific treatment or cure – although in severe cases your doctor may order blood transfusions, a drip and an extended stay in hospital.
In less severe cases, bed rest should do the trick.
And while your first instinct to break your fever is to reach for aspirin don’t. This increases your chance of bleeding. Treat your pain and fever with acetaminophen instead.
Bottom line: If you become sick after traveling to a tropical area – especially if you’ve been to Honduras or India recently – let your doctor know. And ask him to run a blood test to check for tropical diseases like dengue fever.