Over 200 dengue cases were reported in the first week of 2019 – here are 6 things you might not know about the virus

The total number of dengue cases reported in 2018 was 3,285 – almost 20 per cent more than that in the previous year.
Singapore Press Holdings

The number of dengue cases in Singapore has surged alarmingly, with a total of 207 dengue cases having been reported in the first week of the new year. And the number has increased over the past three weeks.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday (Jan 9) that the increase could be because of a rise in the population of Aedes aegypti – the main transmitter of dengue – in the community. This mosquito vector also transmits the Zika, Yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses.

NEA detected about 40 per cent more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in December 2018, compared to that in December 2017.

“If left unchecked, the high Aedes aegypti mosquito population may lead to a surge in dengue cases in 2019,” the agency said.

In 2018, the total number of dengue cases reported was 3,285 – almost 20 per cent more than in the previous year. Although this is lower than the annual number of cases reported in earlier years, the number of dengue cases has been increasing since the end of 2018.

The number of dengue cases from 2013 to 2018. The number of cases detected in 2013 and 2014 reached 22,170 and 18,326 respectively.
NEA

NEA also issued a Chinese New Year advisory urging the public and all nurseries to remove stagnant water from pails, vases, pot plates, roof gutters and more – especially since homes and other premises are decorated with more ornamental plants during this period.

Home owners are also advised to properly dispose of any refuse – including large furniture or household items – to prevent the discarded materials from becoming unintentional mosquito breeding habitats.

Those planning to travel during the upcoming holiday period should also mosquito-proof their homes by taking prevention measures such as covering all toilet bowls, sealing the overflow pipe of the flushing cistern, and asking a relative or close friend to check their homes regularly for stagnant water.

Dengue cases have been detected in Singapore for a long time, but there are a few things about the virus that some are unaware of. Here are six things about dengue that you might not have known about.


1. Bleeding tendency

Dengue-infected patients with low platelet counts may not be able to brush their teeth as it could lead to gum bleeding.
Singapore Press Holdings

According to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), the dengue virus causes the body to bleed easily due to low platelets – which are tiny blood cells that help to clot and prevent excessive bleeding.

Because of this, sports activities should be avoided to reduce the risk of falls and injury, thereby preventing unnecessary bleeding.

Also, patients with very low platelet counts may need to avoid brushing their teeth as this may lead to gum bleeding. Children may also need to be distracted from digging or blowing their noses hard, KKH says.

Patients need to return to the hospital when their blood platelet count is less than 80,000, or if they start bleeding from the nose or gums without any injury.


2. Not spread from person to person

Dengue fever is not spread from person to person.
Singapore Press Holdings

The virus is not transmitted by direct spread from one person to another, but by infected mosquito bites.

According to Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, a person suffering from dengue fever can infect mosquitoes when it takes a blood meal.

Dengue then spreads when the mosquito transmits the virus to other people it bites.

“After 5–14 days, the virus will mature in the salivary glands of the mosquito and spread to the next victim during the mosquito’s next feed,” the doctor wrote in an article published on the hospital’s Health Plus site.

According to him, the general belief is that the virus was introduced to the Southeast Asian region during World War 2, when Aedes mosquitoes followed the troops that provided them breeding water and feeds.


3. Aedes mosquitoes can breed in water approximately the volume of a Singapore 20 cent coin

Aedes mosquitoes can breed in a volume of clear water that approximates a Singapore 20 cent coin.
Pexels

It’s not just large amounts of water in pots and pails that you have to look out for.

A shocking fact is that all these mosquitoes need for breeding is a volume of clear water about the size of a Singapore 20 cent coin, Dr Leong said.

In search of suitable spots to lay their eggs, these mosquitoes can fly up to 400 metres. However, they prefer to remain close to human habitation, and to breed in clean and stagnant water commonly found in homes.


4. Nicknamed “breakbone fever” or “dandy fever”

Dengue-infected patients suffer from severe bone aches.
Pixabay

Over the years, dengue fever has been given two nicknames due to its associated symptoms.

Patients suffering from dengue fever experience severe aches in their bones. This is why the virus is sometimes dubbed “breakbone fever“, reported Malaysian newspaper The Star.

Another less commonly used nickname is “dandy fever”. According to The Star, it was coined as slaves in Honduras felt so much pain that their posture and gait were altered.


5. There’s no specific medication for treatment

There is no specific medication or antibiotic to treat dengue fever.
Pexels

According to Dr Leong, there is no specific medication or antibiotic to treat dengue fever. The only way is to provide symptom relief for typical dengue fever.

While paracetamol can be taken to reduce joint paints and control the fever, pain relievers that can increase the risk of bleeding – such as aspirin – should be avoided.

Doctors may advise patients to rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent vomiting, high fever and dehydration.


6. Ex-sufferers are not immune

Dengue vaccine Dengvaxia® was approved by the Health Science Authority in 2016.
Singapore Press Holdings

The illness is not like chickenpox that causes people to become immune to and are very unlikely to catch again after they have had it, according to HealthHub.

Dengue viruses have four strains and being affected by one strain provides protection against only that particular strain, and insures no protection against the others, KKH said.

But, there have been vaccinations for dengue fever developed, according to Dr Leong’s article. The dengue vaccine Dengvaxia® was by the Health Science Authority in October, 2016, the doctor said. However, this vaccine is only applicable for those aged 12 to 45 years old. It’s been proven to be 70 per cent effective in preventing dengue fever, and up to 95 per cent effective in preventing severe, life-threatening dengue illness.

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