JR Lopez Gonzales 11:20 PM 5
Latest headlines are filled with news on dengue infections in the National Capital Region thus declaring it in a state of calamity. With most of us Filipinos still uninformed about the disease that yearly infects 51 million people worldwide, there is a dire need for everybody to be aware about the deadly dengue.
If we think cancer, vehicular accidents, or heart attack are the top causes of death for humans, we need to think again.
Mosquitoes are the number one culprits for millions of human deaths all over the world.
Dengue is the most widespread of all mosquito-borne viral disease and has thus became a major international public health concern. It is an acute infectious viral disease, which usually affects infants and young children and is transmitted through day-biting mosquitoes known as Aedes Argypti and Aedes Aegyptii.
According to the World Health Organization, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF or “dengue”), was first recognized in the 1950s during the dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand. By 1970’s, nine countries had experienced epidemic DHF and now, the number has increased more than fourfold and continues to rise. Today emerging DHF cases are causing increased dengue epidemics in the Americas, and in Asia, where the viruses are endemic.
Globally, 2.5 billion people live in areas where dengue viruses can be transmitted. Countries in tropical areas, or those found 12 degrees north and south of the equator, are part of the so-called “dengue region”. And yes, that includes us here in the Philippines.
Outbreaks are cyclical, and infection rates can accelerate with frightening speed but the peak season for dengue starts in June with the onset of rainy season. While cases were reported all over the country, these are concentrated in: CaLaBaRZon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon); Eastern and Western Visayas; and Northern, Central and Southern Mindanao.
Taken from a report published by Reader’s Digest in 2002, the Philippines reported 7,697 cases and 67 deaths in the first seven months of 2001, compared to 7,731 cases and no death for all of 2000. Compare these with the current statistics from the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (NEC) were 62,503 cases were reported from January to August 31 this year, up 88% from 2009.
So, how does the virus spread?
The dengue virus does not spread directly from person to person. It is transmitted mostly by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is common across the Philippines and Asia.
When it gorges on the blood of an infected human, the virus enters the insect’s salivary gland, where it incubates for eight to ten days. After that, the mosquito can pass the virus on to the next person it bites. “An infected mosquito is capable of transmitting the virus to susceptible individuals anytime during its 65-day lifespan,” says Dr. Dominic Garcia.
Once the bug enters the body, it multiplies slowly in blood cells. A person bitten does not immediately show symptoms. It takes from five to seven days for the virus to incubate.
In the DHF variant of the infection, cells release chemicals that trigger leakage of plasma from blood vessels. “Fluids accumulate in body cavities, causing profound shock,” explains Dr. Lulu Bravo of University of the Philippines-College of Medicine. Death often results from bleeding in the brain, intestines, or other organs. After the patient has gone into shock, death becomes inevitable.
The increase in air and sea travel in the region has also aided dengue’s spread. A highly-publicized case happened at San Fernando in Sibuyan Island, Philippines, had never experienced an outbreak, but when islander Joel Magdayao visited Manila by boat for a few days in July 1998, he came back infected. A month later, more than a hundred islanders contracted the fever. Two died: a six-year-old girl and a 64-year-old man.
Another startling fact about dengue is that when patients recover from dengue (they would develop antibodies that provide immunity), they are still vulnerable to the other three strains of the virus. There are four viruses (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4), so a person can develop four infections in a lifetime. Often, infection with a subsequent strain results in a more serious illness, though experts are unsure why this happens.
How would we know that one has dengue already and not an ordinary flu?
Although symptoms may vary from patient to patient, generally the sickness starts with the following:
1. Has fever reaching 38.5 degrees Celsius or up for 2 days running already.
2. Rash that would appear 3 or 4 days after the outset of the fever.
3. Stomach pains
4. Agonizing headache
5. Muscle and joint pain
6. Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
7. Bleeding from the skin, nose, or gums.
The worst symptoms can last up to ten days. In the worst cases, the patients’ condition may suddenly deteriorate after a few days of fever, and they may die within 24 hours.
But generally, according to the DOH, there is a minute 1% mortality for the dengue cases nationwide. If an infected individual is immediately rushed to the hospital after early symptoms showed up, a complete fast recovery can take a month.
There is no vaccine available against dengue and there are no specific medications to treat a dengue infection. Although some Filipinos use the traditional herbal medicines such as the “tawa-tawa” herb, ingestion of papaya leaf juice, or consumption of the luscious durian fruit, people from the Department of Health do not advise such alternatives lack of study and empirical evidence for its effectiveness.
But the latest health bulletin released by the DOH reversed and further forged the tawa-tawa herb's healing properties… it turned out that the herb is 99% effective in increasing the blood platelet count. Check out how to make the Tawa-tawa tea here. (For the Top 10 Dengue Prevention Tips, click here)
Hydration is very important for those struck with the illness. Blood platelet count should be noted along with the following remedies:
1. Liquid-intake should be encouraged. Fruit juices are strongly advised.
2. Drink oral glucose electrolyte solutions. An alternative is to mix 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt to one (1) liter of water.
3. Paracetamol should be given and not aspirin to bring down fever. Aspirin impairs blood clotting.
Unless we take concerted action to educate our people and inspire people to act now, dengue will continue to take its toll in the regions of the country. To stop the deaths, let us spread the word and do our part to combat the mosquitoes.
On the current situation, many doctors complain that authorities often act only when outbreaks occur rather than developing preventive programs. I believe if we made some pretty hysterical decisions and precautions during the AH1N1 outbreak (where only one person died), the government should do its best for the sake of public health.
But still whether or not the government reminds, we the Filipino people should mind about this issue.