Going out and enjoying the showers of the season, gorging on great street food, and playing in puddles of water is how many of us wish to be associated with the rains. But all of these come with the risk of exposing ourselves to various germs and viruses, which lead to spending the rest of the season in bed due to sickness.
Rainy season illness in babies also begins to ramp up since their bodies are suddenly exposed to a huge fluctuation in the atmosphere and a considerably larger amount of microorganisms that the body has to fight against.
Ms Bernadetha Lugwisha, 32, from Mabibo, Dar es Salaam narrates to Your Health that her 4-year-old daughter Chanice fell sick at midnight on Wednesday and her body temperature increased to 39.1 degrees celsius, a sign of fever.
Most doctors agree that a normal body temperature for a healthy child is between 97 and 100.4 degrees fahrenheit (36 to 38 degrees celsius).
A child is considered to have fever if his or her body temperature is higher than 38 degrees celsius. High fever usually means more than 39 degrees celsius.
“I gave her paracetamol and the body temperature dropped to 38.9 degrees celsius. But after a few hours later at around 4 am, her body temperature increased up to 39.3 degrees celsius. I had to wait until 7 am in the morning and I took her to the Regency Medical Centre for treatment,” says Bernadetha.
Upon arrival at the hospital, they were received at the Emergency Unit and later instructed to see a paediatrician for further medical examination.
“Her body temperature was still higher, I was very worried. My husband had travelled. I was accompanied to the hospital by a house girl,” she says.
The hospital’s results showed that Chanice had dengue fever and therefore the doctor recommended that she had to be admitted at the hospital for a prolonged medication to treat the fever.
“The hospital charged me Sh60,000 for the medical examination. Then after she was diagnosed with dengue fever, the doctor instructed that she has to take paracetamol to control fever and drink a lot of water at the same time. I thank God, her condition keeps improving, she will be discharged any time soon,” says Bernadetha.
Speaking to Your Health over the telephone last week, Dr Rahim Damji , a Paediatrician at Regency Medical Centre explained that the paracetamol relieves pain, further noting that the medicine also reduces raised body temperature (fever).
He further elaborated that patients can take a dose of paracetamol every 4-6 hours if needed, but cautioned that patients should not take more than four doses in any 24-hour period.
“Drugs like Diclofenac, Ibuprofen and Aspirin are all under the group of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They all carry antiplatelet benefit hence thinning the blood. During Dengue illness, most of the time the platelet count is low hence the chances of bleeding from the skin and mucous membranes are increased. Hence, taking NSAIDs during that time is prohibited,” Dr Damji further explained.
He added, “Again, dengue fever causes fever and dehydration, hence water is recommended to lower the body temperature and reduce chances of dehydration.”
Causes of dengue
Dengue fever is caused by any one of four types of dengue viruses spread by mosquitoes that thrive in and near human lodgings. When a mosquito bites a person infected with a dengue virus, the virus enters the mosquito. When the infected mosquito then bites another person, the virus enters that person’s bloodstream.
Dr Damji pointed out some key symptoms of the disease including extreme pain in the joints and muscles, swelling of the lymph nodes, weakness, headaches, fever, that can even lead to haemorrhagic bleeding which can be fatal.
In order to curb the spreading of dengue fever, Dr Damji advised people to clean all water containers once a week and scrub the sides well to remove eggs of mosquitoes sticking to the sides.
He further advised people to clean gutters of leaves and debris so that rainwater will not collect as breeding places of mosquitoes.
“I urge people to puncture or cut old tires used as roof support to avoid the accumulation of water. Again, they should collect and dispose of all unusable tin cans, jars, bottles, and other items that can collect and hold water,” advised Dr Damji.
Global burden of dengue
The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. A vast majority of cases are asymptomatic and hence the actual numbers of dengue cases are underreported and many cases are misclassified.
One estimate indicates 390 million dengue infections per year (95 per cent credible interval 284–528 million), of which 96 million (67–136 million) manifest clinically (with any severity of disease).
Another study, of the prevalence of dengue, estimates that 3.9 billion people, in 128 countries, are at risk of infection with dengue viruses.
Member States in three World Health Organisation (WHO) regions regularly report the annual number of cases. The number of cases reported increased from 2.2 million in 2010 to over 3.34 million in 2016. Although the full global burden of the disease is uncertain, the initiation of activities to record all dengue cases partly explains the sharp increase in the number of cases reported in recent years.
In Tanzania, cases of patients being diagnosed with dengue fever in Dar es Salaam have increased by 50.8 per cent in a week, the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Muhammad Kambi revealed during a press conference last week.
He further revealed that the number increased from 1,200 to 1,809 patients recorded in Dar es Salaam alone, citing that so far at least 1,901 patients have been diagnosed with the fever countrywide.
How to prevent other common rainy season diseases
Apart from diseases spread by mosquitoes such as dengue and malaria, the rainy season may bring with it other diseases that endanger the health of children, said Dr Mariam Noorani, Paediatrician and Head of Paediatric Department at Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam when she spoke to Your Health last week.
She added: “Some of these include water-borne diseases such as diarrheal diseases and hepatitis A, which can be spread by drinking contaminated water. Other diseases include skin conditions especially fungal skin infections which occur if children play in dirty water and infection of open wounds which get contaminated with water.”
Referring to the tips to prevent children from developing the diseases, Dr Noorani advised parents to discourage their children from playing in areas flooded by rainwater and make sure their children always wash hands after contact with rain and flood water.
Again she further advised people to remove collected rain water around the house and make sure children sleep in insecticide-treated bed nets.
“Use of mosquito repellants and long sleeves and trousers to cover children’s arms and legs is also useful. Children should wear closed shoes if they have to walk through puddles of water. If a child has a wound, wash it with clean water and keep it dry,” advised Dr Noorani.
Following the increase of dengue cases in the country, the government last week assured Tanzanians that it embarked on conducting deliberate preventive and treatment measures including distributing medical supplies for testing dengue free of charge with a particular focus on curbing the burden.
“We have ordered 3,000 test kits, of which 200 have already landed in the country, ready for distribution to various hospitals in Dar es Salaam,” revealed Prof Kambi.