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Dengue Fever Christmas: A Virus as a Present

Updated on June 22, 2013
Dengue fever incidence in North and South America in 2006.
Dengue fever incidence in North and South America in 2006. | Source

Dengue Fever Takes the Boredom Out of Christmas

In early December, I had just got over a garden-variety of flu and was starting to feel better. Then, about a week later, something else hit me that made my bones, head and eyes ache profoundly. My eyes were very sensitive to light, I had no energy and I was struggling to breathe (I have asthma).

People who have had experience with dengue fever can usually recognize someone who has it. There is a look in the eyes that is characteristic, and when they learn of the symptoms that the sufferer feels, as mentioned above, it is highly likely that they have been bitten by the daylight-flying mosquito that transmits dengue fever (usually Aedes aegypti). Two people in my family have had it before. One has had it twice.

The most frightening thing about this disease is that your blood platelet counts drop dramatically, which can cause all kinds of health complications, like internal hemorrhaging. Without platelets, your blood vessels can spontaneously lose blood, especially in your gut region. And if you have heart problems, it can exacerbate that as well. Luckily, I don't. But the asthma condition can also cause complications due to autoimmunity. The dengue virus causes one's immune system to attack and destroy the platelets. It also affects the production of platelets which are essential for blood clotting.

The Mosquito That Transmits Dengue Fever

Aedes aegypti from a 1905 drawing.  One of the principle vectors of the dengue virus.  It also transmits yellow fever in some regions.
Aedes aegypti from a 1905 drawing. One of the principle vectors of the dengue virus. It also transmits yellow fever in some regions. | Source

A Great Video on How Infection Occurs

Dengue Fever Treatment

So, if your platelets are falling, what do you do? It seems in Costa Rica, the idea is to drink lots of water and eat - even if you find eating disagreeable. For me, the disease made all food unappealing and tasteless - and perhaps that was the reason that my platelets began to dip down below the 100,000 mark, at which they have to hospitalize patients. So if you you have this, I would advise you to eat as a forced discipline. Your body needs energy and protein to make platelets.

I was put on a drip of dextrose and various salts to provide a constant amount of moisture and some energy as well. I was also stuck daily for a blood sample. Other than that, they gave me a large dose of acetominophen, an antihistamine and lots of water to drink.

My platelets bottomed out at 48,000 and stayed there for a couple of days before it started going back up. Eating the hospital food was difficult, as the gallo pinto was tasteless and all of the other food was poorly spiced. I also developed a strong distaste for maracuya (passion) fruit drink, since it was served more than twice per day. And for lunch and dinner, there was a chicken broth which tasted like the wringings from a used dish rag with overtones of onion.

After 5 days and nights, the day after Christmas, I was discharged from the hospital. I was still tired, but was feeling much better. My platlet counts had reached 104,000. My birthday is on the 26th, so this was one birthday present for which I was extremely grateful.

The stem cells that ultimately make platelets come from the bone marrow.  Destruction of the platelets is thought to be due to the virus's association with them and triggering the host's immune system to destroy its own platelets.
The stem cells that ultimately make platelets come from the bone marrow. Destruction of the platelets is thought to be due to the virus's association with them and triggering the host's immune system to destroy its own platelets.

Food Cures for Dengue

Its seems that everyone I met during my experience with dengue had a suggestion as to what would help me recover. For instance, I drank copious quantities of Welches grape juice during the period right before my hospitalization. Enough to turn purple. But when I got to the hospital, they told me that clear juices were better. Seafood soup was also a suggestion that I was given later.

Other cures that are found on the internet are papaya leaf extract, camote (yam) tops, some extract from the heart of a coconut, etc.

However, after doing some research, it seems that all of the ideas on food cures are anecdotal and haven't been research scientifically.

What follows is a video on work that a U.S. Army unit is doing on developing a vaccine. It seems an uphill battle, as there are four different dengue virus strains and many do not develop an immune response to some of the developed vaccines.

Work on a Vaccine

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    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      The authorities encourage people to clean up anything outdoors that can hold water - old tires, pots, cans, etc. But if there are standing puddles in an area, this can lead to an infestation. I don't think they look into proper drainage as much as they should here. The public authorities come to your house and the immediate neighbors and fog with insecticide, but that is usually 10-15 days after you get it and have made a trip to the hospital. So my strategy is to wear long pants and put on repellant, especially during the rainy season and a little past that. Right not it is dry, so the threat has diminished.

    • profile image

      Derdriu 

      6 years ago

      Randy, What an educational, informative, practical summary of experiences with contracting and surviving dengue fever! It's familiar to me from travel in Brazil and Mexico. It's amazing how much trouble a tiny mosquito with biting road rage can do. What is the natural control on such mosquitoes on Costa Rica?

      Thank you for sharing, and I'm happy to hear that you're recovered,

      Derdriu

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks, case1worker. Dengue does seem to be limited to equatorial and lower temperature zones. One minus for living in a warmer climate. The pluses still win for me.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      So glad you are feeling better, it must have been very unpleasant- thank goodness we don't get it in the UK!

    working

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