How to prevent and protect yourself from dengue
While the world battles and remembers 2020 as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, another pestilence lurks in the shadows of Singapore that requires equal resilience. Did you know that Singapore saw its highest record of dengue cases this year with 33,956 cases* recorded as of November?
*Cited from NEA
As dengue fever remained as a public health threat, this disease can be preventable when we stay vigilant and take precautionary measures against the breeding of Aedes mosquitos. Learn how to protect you and your loved ones from dengue fever by understanding the illness and adopting good dengue prevention tips.
What is dengue fever
Dengue fever is a disease caused by a dengue virus that is transmitted to another person by the bite of a female Aedes mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a dengue-infected person and remains infective for the rest of its lifespan. The disease is then carried and transmitted to others through the bites of the infected mosquito. Dengue fever does not spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of dengue
The onset of dengue symptoms usually begins 4-6 days after the infection and may last between 2-10 days. Symptoms of dengue may include:
- High fever
- Intense headaches
- Body aches and joint pains
- Pain behind the eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Skin rashes that appear 2-5 days after the onset of fever
- Mild bleeding, e.g. bleeding in the gums or nose bleeding
Sometimes symptoms may be mild and be mistaken as a flu or viral infection. Younger children and people who have not had the infection before tend to have a milder case than older children and adults. However, this does not eliminate the risk of severe dengue fever and complications from developing. In serious and rare forms of dengue such as dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome (DSS), symptoms may progress to massive bleeding and damage to vital organs and body systems. Dengue haemorrhagic fever and DSS can be fatal and life-threatening when left untreated.
People with a weaker immune system and those with second or subsequent dengue infection may be at higher risk of developing severe dengue or dengue haemorrhagic fever. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself against dengue and make conscious efforts in our fight to keep mosquito breeding down.
How to prevent dengue fever
The fight against dengue takes a community effort and each of us has a role to stop the spread of dengue and to protect the vulnerable. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from this prevalent illness through taking preventive and protective steps against dengue.
Did you know that a second infection of dengue may be more severe and may result in dengue shock or dengue haemorrhagic fever? This is because there are four different strains of the dengue virus (DENV-1 to DENV-4). As your body develop antibodies the first time you contract dengue, cross-immunity of the other strains after your first recovery is only partial and temporary. Research have shown that subsequent infections by the other strains of dengue increases the risk of severe dengue.
Hence, to help prevent and lower the risk of developing a second infection, those who have contracted dengue prior are recommended to take a dengue vaccination. The vaccination is suitable for those between the ages of 12-45, who has a previous episode of dengue infection (even for those asymptomatic cases). A pre-vaccination blood test for dengue can be taken to assess if there has been a previous infection.
While researchers are still establishing vaccinations for dengue across the board, the next best way to fight this disease is to prevent the breeding of Aedes mosquitos as this occurs in the home.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has developed a “10-minute 5-step Mozzie Wipe Out” routine to keep your house mosquito-free.
- Change water in vases/bowls on alternate days.
- Turn over all water storage containers.
- Remove water from flower pot plates on alternate days.
- Cover bamboo pole holders when not in use.
- Clear blockages and put BTI insecticide in roof gutters monthly.
Aside from the 5-step Mozzie Wipe Out, ensure you get rid of stagnant water on a daily basis. This includes checking your washing pails, showering and dishwashing areas as well as your windows especially during raining season. Throw your waste out on a regular and frequent basis. Spray insecticide at dark corners and areas more prone to water storage around your house. You may choose to spray when you leave the house to prevent yourself from over-inhaling the insecticide.
It is important to be familiar and remain updated about dengue alert and clusters around Singapore. A dengue cluster indicates a locality with active transmission that requires intervention. There are three types of alert level for dengue clusters.
|High-risk area with 10 or more cases||Red|
|High-risk area with less than 10 cases||Yellow|
|No new cases, under surveillance for the next 21 days||Green|
*Table taken from NEA website: https://www.nea.gov.sg/dengue-zika/dengue/dengue-clusters
If you are visiting or living in a neighbourhood identified as a red zone dengue cluster, you are strongly recommended to take conscious efforts to prevent and protect yourself and your family from dengue. Aside from ensuring you have undertaken all of the above preventive steps to keep your house mosquito-free, here are additional protective measures you and your loved one should further adhere.
- Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and on your clothing. This should be applied both inside and outside, when you are at home and heading out.
- Do not apply under your clothes.
- Do not apply on cuts, wounds or irritated skin
- Do not apply near your eyes, mouths and ears.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to cover your arms and legs. This minimises skin exposure to mosquitos.
- Stay in an air-conditioned or cooler area. Mosquitos generally move towards nearby heat sources, higher water vapor level close to your skin, and certain compounds and odours present in your sweat.
- Use mosquitos’ nets when you are sleeping.
- Use mosquito and insect window screens.
While a vaccination is available to help prevent a subsequent infection, this does not mean we can be complacent in our fight against dengue. We all have to do our part to bring down the number of dengue infections in Singapore. Protect you and your loved one from being infected by stopping the spread of dengue today.