Jakarta, INDONESIA — Member States of ASEAN on Monday (15 June) commemorated Dengue Fever Day — an initiative by Indonesia — amidst the region’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Dengue fever, which originates from the dengue virus which enters a human body through the bite of female Aedes mosquitoes in tropical and sub-tropical areas, kills around 25,000 worldwide, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dengue fever: symptoms, treatment, and prevention
High fever around 40°C/104°F is one of the most familiar dengue symptoms, followed by other signs such as severe headache, nausea, and rashes.
However, persons infected with the dengue virus may sometimes be asymptomatic.
Patients enter a critical phase when their temperature returns to normal, usually three to seven days after the onset of symptoms.
This may lead to patients thinking that they have recovered and are able to resume their regular activities. However, this phase often proves to be the most crucial as they may end up experiencing fatal bleeding and plasma leaking if ignored.
During this critical stage, close observation for the next 24-48 hours is vital to prevent further complications from happening.
There is no vaccine for dengue fever so far. The public is advised to take preventive measures by using mosquito repellent and long-sleeve clothing while going outside, as well as cleaning water containers to dispose mosquito eggs.
Symptoms of dengue fever and COVID-19 are almost similar
The Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes — the carrier of the dengue virus — cause dengue fever while COVID-19 is spread through droplets.
However, a joint study conducted by health institutions in Singapore has demonstrated how COVID-19 infection has been falsely diagnosed as dengue fever.
The research — published in The Lancet — revealed that two patients were initially diagnosed for having dengue fever due to false results of the serological test.
Both patients have dengue-related symptoms such as low levels of thrombocytes, fever, and diarrhoea.
Doctors did not suspect them of having COVID-19, given that the patients have had no history of foreign trips and did not have contacts with COVID-19 patients.
They were treated as dengue patients before being discharged. They were readmitted to the hospital after the conditions worsened with additional symptoms such as shortness of breath.
The doctors then conducted a swab test with samples taken from their throats. The results showed that the patients had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Failing to consider Covid-19 because of a positive dengue rapid test result has serious implications not only for the patient but also for public health,” the research said.
Dengue fever in ASEAN countries: facts and numbers
Indonesia recorded more than 53,000 dengue fever cases from January to early May this year, official data showed.
From January until early April, official figures revealed that the number of deaths related to the mosquito-borne disease had reached 254.
Dengue fever became a severe public health crisis in the country from 1968 to 2009.
From that period, there had been an increase in the numbers of dengue-endemic provinces and cities/districts, Ministry of Health Data Center and Epidemiological Surveillance reported.
Singapore recorded 10,732 dengue cases as of 12 June, with 870 cases in the first week of the month alone, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Malaysia is anticipating a second wave of dengue fever from June to September, the country’s Health Ministry warned.
Since January and up to 13 June, Malaysia recorded 50,511 dengue cases with 88 deaths.