Our dengue epidemic and first death
We had our first case of dengue fever death yesterday.
When I heard the news, there were many questions as to how this could have happened, especially when the patient was a 20-year old young man, who would presumably have a higher chance of being able to fight against the virus. Was there somewhere lacking in the healthcare that he received? Reading the news article did not shed a lot of light on this. But the question of how his blood platelet count dropped to dangerously low levels while being admitted in hospital remains in my head.
My brother-in-law had dengue fever about a year ago. Mr D has had dengue fever in his younger days. It is not a joke, nor is it fun. It can be deadly. Yet, the number of dengue cases in Singapore keeps growing on and on.
It was reported that our previous epidemic happened in 2005, with 14,006 cases of dengue fever reported, and 27 deaths (source from here). Currently, at NEA’s dengue website today, we are already at 8195 cases, and we are only at the halfway mark of the year.
Reading about the death also sparked off some anger in me. I personally feel that Singaporeans are not conscious enough about personal responsibility when it comes to health.
A few weeks ago, I had some symptoms that I could be coming down with a cold. My throat was dry and beginning to sore. I did not want to be down with anything. I had work scheduled to be done and now that I run my own business and I enjoy going to work, I certainly do not want down time.
So whenever I feel symptoms like that, I would drink lots of manuka honey (not normal honey, but manuka honey), gurgle with salt water several times a day, increase my water and vitamins intake (either fruits or supplement) and rest. So far, these have worked very well and I end up not having a cold in the end.
There was this fateful day then, that my sore throat had just recovered and I felt good, happy that I did not feel I was falling sick. I went to a department store which was having a sale, to get bedlinen. The cashier queue was looong. Behind me stood a girl, sniffing away and blowing her nose numerous times into a tissue. She was standing very close to me, even though I was trying to widen the gap between us. To be fair, she was using a tissue, but hey, in close proximity for 40 minutes (yes, that queue sucked), where were the viruses to go to? I ended up with a cold 2 days later. You can blame it on my immune system. I agree. I also blame it on people’s lack of consciousness about their behaviour.
When I have a cold, I wear a mask when I am out (and get some funny stares) and even at home. Actually, most times I would stay home. I wash my hands very often, and I would avoid crowded places. Even at home, I spray anti bacterial aerosol on door handles and in rooms (I actually secretly like it smelling like a doctor’s clinic). Mr D and I sleep in an aircon bedroom every night without fail. When I had a cold, I slept on a mattress in the living room until I am well. He does that too when he has cold. Being “trapped” in the same aircon room with a sick person is a sure way to get sick yourself. I don’t want others to be sick because I made them so.
My point is, when people are unwell, why are they not indoors? If they had to be outdoors, why are they not wearing a mask? I made a mental note to myself that if I were to have another encounter like mentioned above, I would have opened my mouth and ask her to stand away. If she does not, I will. Besides, I feel really uncomfortable that people leave a smaller and smaller “personal space” around me. It’s like intruding into my space. Perhaps that is the result of a congested public transport system.
On separate incident, I was at a foodcourt with Mr D. A father came along with 2 young children and left them at a table while he went to buy food. I saw spots on the children’s faces and arms. We both looked more carefully, and to be safe, we picked up our trays of food and sat somewhere further away. The children looked very much like they were having chickenpox.
During a recent conversation with my insurance agent, I realised that my last visit to the doctor was in January last year, when my eye had an infection, after supposedly eating some bad food. In between then and now, other than the cold mentioned above which lasted more than a week, I had not really fallen sick. I feel very proud of it. I attribute it to the current lifestyle I am having. Being my own boss, I also do not have an employer whom I can go to to claim my medical bills, which is a good thing because I feel a bigger responsibility to take charge of my own health, much more than before. I wish everyone does the same, whether you have an employer paying your bills or not.
Back to the dengue mosquito thing. At the condo where my shop is, a big banner outside the gate reads that there are more than 50 cases of dengue fever in the neighbourhood. Just a few days earlier, the number was 30. And more than a week ago, it was 20. The condo staff have been cutting down shrubs, trimming away plants and clearing rubbish more frequently. I see them real busy. I hope the residents also are actively doing their own thing.
I shudder at the thought of higher possibility of contracting dengue fever by being in a dengue hotspot. There is work I want to do, cakes I want to bake, cupcakes I look forward to making. Getting dengue and spending 1-2 weeks in hospital is definitely not on the list. I place an insect repellent in the shop, spray insecticide in dark corners in and outside the shop, clear dish trays and dry the sinks. I try to do my part to prevent mosquito breeding and I have an spray-on insect repellent in my bag all the time now. By the way, if you are using a repellent, look for the ingredient DEET, it is more effective than other ingredients. Read more here.
Back at home, there is a construction site beside our cluster of flats. All activity has stopped for some time because the main contractor has gone bust. I emailed to NEA asking about checking the site for mosquitoes, and I also emailed my MP, hopefully to ensure it gets done. Our estate is a green zone, with no cases of dengue, it sure does not need a first.
Our weather is perfect for mosquito breeding. It takes the effort of every single person to stop the epidemic from getting worse.
I have done my part, what about you?