It is just natural that, when thinking about ourselves and our family’s health, we would be concerned about the possibility of “coming down with a disease.”
This is especially true for Japanese expats living in Singapore, since it is not rare for them to become sick due to the different climate, and there even are possibilities of contracting diseases characteristic of the tropics that are almost unheard of in Japan. It is because of this that many are more concerned about the family’s health than when they are in Japan.
Bearing this in mind, in this corner we will regularly have a Japanese doctor explain to us the diseases we should watch out for in Singapore, and sharing his advice.
Today, Dr. Keiichi Hayashi from Raffles Japanese Clinic has explained to us about dengue, a disease that is causing an epidemic this year.
Interview about dengue fever
What is the current situation of the dengue epidemic this year?
This is the biggest outbreak since 2007 with more than ten thousand people infected – this is seven times more than the number of dengue cases of last year. Also, three people have been known to die because of the disease. A few Japanese people living in Singapore have come to the clinic infected with dengue, too.
What is the cause of dengue?
Dengue is caused by the bites of aedes mosquitoes (aedes aegypti, aedes albopictus,) which carry the dengue virus. The incubation period goes from four to seven days. This is a disease characteristic of the tropical areas, but actually it caused an epidemic in Western Japan in the past. In the case of “malaria,” which is also transmitted by mosquito bites, the anopheles (the type of mosquito that carries the malarial parasite) has nocturnal habits – this means that being extra careful at night and dawn is enough. However, aedes aegypti are active also during the day, and appear also in big cities like Singapore.
What are the symptoms of dengue?
Just because someone were bitten by an aedes mosquito, it does not mean that they will necessary develop symptoms. Some people may contract the disease without any onset of symptoms. This is called “latent or inapparent infection” and, in this case, infected people will not probably realize they had been infected with dengue in the past until they have a blood test done for any other reason later in their lives.
The first symptoms of dengue are “bodily pain” and a “high fever.” This fever goes away in about four to five days, but it is actually the “sense of fatigue” that remains after the fever that is the hardest. For example, if the liver functions have been severely affected, it may take some time for the patient to recover completely. Also, since there are cases in which there is a decrease in thrombocytes and it becomes difficult to stop the blood from wounds, hospitalization may become necessary. In any case, dengue is an infectious disease, but it cannot be transmitted from one person to another.
How can we prevent being infected with dengue?
The best preventive measure is to “not get bitten by mosquitoes.” I recommend using a good insect repellent such as DEET, which is highly concentrated in insect repelling components. Another good way to prevent getting bitten is to reduce the amount of bare skin when going out by wearing long sleeves and long pants or skirts.
Actually, many of the patients infected with dengue admit to not have realized they had been bitten, when asked about it. Anybody can get bitten in the less expected place, especially when eating in a Hawker Center or a terrace, or at the bus stop when waiting for the bus.
Dengue cannot be contracted only in Singapore, but also in other tropical and subtropical areas such as the neighbouring South East Asian countries and Africa, so there are even cases of patients coming back infected from their business trips or holidays abroad.
In Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is carrying out a campaign to prevent aedes mosquitoes from appearing as a way to fight against dengue. One can also check the areas with the most infection cases (hotspots) through “X-DENGUE” and through the following application for smartphones: “my ENV” I recommend checking them often.
What to do if we suspect we may have contracted dengue?
If you realize you have been bitten by a mosquito and you are worried about dengue, watch out for symptoms during the first week. If you do not experience any bodily pain or high fever, chances are you have not contracted the disease.
If you develop a high fever, it is necessary to check if it is a cold, influenza, or dengue. If you have a cough and a runny nose, it is a cold, but if you do not have any of these symptoms it may be dengue.
As stated above, dengue may cause a decrease in thrombocytes. If you suspect what you have is dengue, you should not take antipyretics such as “aspirin” or “loxonin,” which are said to affect the effectiveness of thrombocytes. You should rather take “panadol” or “paracetamol,” which are apt for children as well.
In any case, rather than trying to figure out what you have by yourself, I recommend going to a clinic and getting checked up as soon as possible, if you believe you may be suffering from dengue.
Raffles Japanese Clinic
Doctor Keiichi Hayashi