Take this today: Dengue fever is not contagious

Tuesday June 4 2019

Dengue fever is spread by an Aedes aegypti

Dengue fever is spread by an Aedes aegypti mosquito and dengue fever is not contagious. PHOTO | FILE 

By Chris Peterson

It’s around 7:30pm, I arrive at my work place, ready to take over for the night, as I was on-call that day.

Before anything, I decided to make a ward round first, to see how my in-patients (patients who are admitted) are faring and what management do they need.

The inpatient department here is at the top-most floor and as I was taking my steps, I heard someone shout for help for a doctor.

I decided to quickly turn back to emergency department, only to realise that it was my nurse that was calling after receiving a patient who was suffering from high grade fever and was brought to the hospital by his wife and two children. The patient wasn’t able to speak by then due to fever, so I took his history from the family.

They presented to me that he was fine during the whole day until 2 hours before they came to hospital, he suddenly started feeling unwell with severe fore headache, intense painful joints, high body temperature, extreme weakness and the fever.

To start his management, I counselled the family to be calm since they were with deep tension and ordered them to go to waiting area. I put my patient under observation, and ordered all the relevant labs, and while waiting for the results, I gave my patient paracetamol injection to relieve his severe headache and fever.

In few minutes, the results were back with everything normal expect his full blood picture that confirmed dengue diagnosis.

I then continued his management for dengue with maintenance of fluids and with time the patient slowly started to stabilise.

When the patient’s stabilisation was improving, that’s when I was able to share the prognosis to his family.

I was surprised at their reaction, when I told them that he is diagnosed with dengue fever.

For them, it looked like, the whole family is now doomed, since they put their minds that by being close to him and making body contact with him the whole day while helping him, they are also infected by dengue fever and they will fall sick and probably die soon if they will not get treated.

With this concept in their minds, they were extremely shocked, and that gave me an extra job to educate them and make them understand that what they think is nothing but a myth.

Since for the first time, the government confirmed the outbreak of dengue fever, almost more than a month ago, the number of dengue fever patients I have been receiving at my work station has been quite significant compared to how it was perceived.

Medical professionals particularly, have been using different platforms to raise awareness about dengue fever, until the word dengue is no longer new to a non-medic.

To every medical personnel that has been in front line to keep this awareness up, I strongly applaud them.

However I have come to realise that, there is still that random understanding about the disease among the people. People still have a lot of misconceptions about the dengue fever.

The concept that dengue fever is contagious like the family of my patient had, particularly rises from fear and lack of information.

The belief that an infected person is able to transmit the virus through physical contact is false. You can only be infected with dengue through a bite of female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carry the virus.

I therefore urge everyone to take this from today that dengue fever is not contagious and can never be transmitted via cough, close contact, and body fluids with the infected person.

The author is the medical doctor based at sanitas hospital in Dar es salaam.

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