With the world in the grip of Covid-19, it seems rather petty to write about my battle with Dengue fever but Dengue has had me in its grip for the last 15 days and I have never felt so ill in my life.
When symptoms started, my wife and I thought immediately it was Covid, even though there are few cases on the island and we’ve hardly been anywhere for months. It started with a temperature of 102, my body radiating heat while at the same time I shivered with cold. Painful aches, total fatigue, shortness of breath, and 100% loss of appetite followed. A seven day graph of my temperature saw it spike at 102 most afternoons and then drop back a little. It was a roller-coaster. Paracetamol helped lower my temperature and at this point we ruled out Covid, well, sort of. I have scarred lungs (it’s a long story) and as my breathing was becoming a worry I agreed to a blood test, which came back positive for Dengue Fever.
Interestingly, while this was going on, Key West, Florida reported their first cases of Dengue in ten years.
The disease is carried and transmitted primarily, but not only, by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito and here’s a fun fact. If someone tells you they’ve been bitten by a mosquito you can explain that that isn’t strictly true as mosquitoes don’t have a biting mouth as we understand it. A mosquito’s mouth is a sophisticated system of six thin, needle-like parts that scientists call stylets. Each of these is designed to pierce the skin, find blood vessels, and make it easy for the creature to suck blood. While they suck, they excrete an anti-coagulant to help the flow and stop the blood from clotting. By the time you feel the ‘bite’ in the form of an itch, the little vampire is long gone. It takes eight to ten days for Dengue to develop in the human body so there’s not a lot of point in going looking for the one that nailed you. Murdering its descendants, however, is a different matter.
Having had such a debilitating form of Dengue leads me to think that I’ve have had a mild case before, the World Health Organisation (WHO) noting that a mild case can be barely noticeable but much more severe second time around. They also note that the global incidence of Dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades and claim about half of the world’s population is now at risk. There are an estimated 100-400 million infections each year.
Back to my recovery: Two evenings ago I managed, supported by my wife, a half circuit of the garden. Last night it was a whole circuit. Also for the last forty eight hours I haven’t slept during the daytime whereas a week ago I was sleeping around 18 hours a day. I’ve even had a small glass of red wine, so I know things are improving.
That I’ve been so ill from Dengue has been a revelation. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Aedes aegypti mosquito photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikipedia