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Dengue & You: It’s Time to Take Action!

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Professor Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin   Professor and Senior Consultant, Department of Primary Care Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya

Sarah Lian, TV personality and actress, is one of those adults who experienced firsthand the misery and pain caused by dengue. Like most Malaysians, she knows about dengue, but she never seriously gave it a thought until she had dengue in 2014.

“I was not sure how I contracted the disease,” she recalls, “but there was a construction site near my apartment – that could have been the cause.”

Fortunately, she recovered, thanks to early treatment as well as partaking in papaya leaf juice, a popular traditional remedy. Papaya leaf juice is clearly a drink that she is not too fond of, judging from her expression as she mentions it!

However, the uncertainties and misery she experienced while receiving treatment jolted her from the apathy she originally felt when it came to dengue. Today, she is an active advocate for dengue awareness, and she encourages Malaysians to take a more active role in eliminating the threat of dengue in our lives.

“I am proof that dengue can affect anyone and everyone,” she says, and reiterates the importance of each and every of us doing our part to eradicate the threat.

Uncertainties and Misery

“Patients with dengue go through quite a large amount of uncertainty, discomfort and fear ” says Professor Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin.

According to her, we currently do not have any specific medications for dengue. Antibiotics do not work on patients with dengue; treatment currently involves supportive care for the patients. Such supportive care includes:

  • Painkillers or analgesics for pain.
  • Fluid replacement (orally in mild cases, intravenous drips in severe cases).
  • Medications to lower fever.
  • In severe cases, blood transfusion and other bleeding management methods may be necessary.[1]

As you can see, patients with dengue can undergo considerable amount of uncertainty discomfort  and misery, and they may even face the possibility of death in particularly severe cases.

Additionally, there is the fear and worry that the patient and their family go through, beginning from the diagnosis process. “The wait for a diagnosis can be agonizing,” says Dr Chia. The affected patient has to come daily for blood tests, and sometimes it may take a while for the results to come in. There is also always the fear that the patient’s other family members would be affected by the disease.

When it comes to dengue, prevention is certainly a much more favourable and dependable option than cure. Let us take a look at how we can all do our part to protect ourselves from this disease.

First steps, first

  • Cover the gully trap of your sinks or install an anti-mosquito valve in each one.
  • Remove the tray of your air-conditioner. Hire a contractor to redirect the water from the air conditioner to the bathroom.

Every day, to keeps the mozzies away

  • Turn over or cover containers, bowls, plates and other utensils that can collect water.
  • Throw away all unwanted containers that can collect water.
  • Always cover your dustbin.

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Every 2 days, for better protection

  • For flower pot plates, discard collected water every two days and scrub the plate thoroughly to remove mosquito eggs. (It’s best not to use these plates in the first place!)
  • Change the water in flower vases. Flush the roots of the plant with running water, and scrub the inside of the vase thoroughly to remove mosquito eggs.

Once a week (that is what weekends are for!)

  • Clear drains of fallen leaves and other forms of blockage.
  • If you keep a garden, clear debris and remove any stagnant water collected on leaves and branches.

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Every month, for maximum protection

  • Clear roof gutters of blockages, and add some bleach solution or Bti insecticide. You can also use insecticidal paint on your roof gutters. 
  • In areas where the collection of stagnant water is unavoidable (such as at the playground near your house), add in some Bti insecticide or bleach solution.

If your area has plenty of mosquitoes

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts.
  • Place mosquito screens on doors and windows.
  • Use a mosquito net when you go to sleep.
  • Watch out for signs and symptoms of dengue.

[1] Medscape. Dengue treatment and management. Retrieved on Sept 17, 2015 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/215840-treatment

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