Summer comes, and with it mosquitoes and dengue.
Even as the holiday cold fritters away, the Department of Health has already noticed an alarming spike in cases of what is otherwise known in its extreme form as hemorrhagic fever.
Some 2,100 people have been infected by the mosquito-borne virus in Central Visayas since the beginning of Jan. 2019. As of last count, 18 have already died. Extreme fluctuation in temperature, which leads to the breeding of mosquitoes, is to blame.
The summer of 1983. I caught the virus while enjoying the distinction of being a freshly-minted college dropout. Given that the virus has an incubation period of four-to-ten days from the time of the bite, I’d surmise I was at my dorm at P. Noval, packing my stuff and saying my goodbyes to friends, when the kamikaze mosquito struck.
Dengue wasn’t much of a household name back then. Outside the circle of medical practitioners, very little was known about the disease. P. Noval wasn’t exactly Kyoto at the peak of the Sakura Festival during summer. It was a dingy, at the very least squalid, stretch of road packed with derelict student dormitories, one on top of the other.
It was the perfect nursery for these 4mm-6mm flying vampires known as the Aedes aegypti.
Few viral diseases have learned to mask its real dangers the way dengue has. Falling quickly ill with what seemed like the average flu, doctors dismissed in a flash any potential danger with the prescription of your everyday flu drops.
Not a stranger to being sick, needless to say I’ve had my share of bouts with the flu. This, however, was totally different from the ones I’ve contracted before.
The pain in my muscles and joints soon after tripled with the onslaught of a headache which could kill an elephant. It had the throbbing sort of ache to it, at once frequent and debilitating, like the aftermath of falling headfirst onto a marble slab.
Next, sudden spikes in fever, the ambush of nausea, and a burning in my eyes. Thanks to my mother who had the good sense to rush me to the hospital after the appearance of skin rashes and blotches due to internal bleeding, I was saved from sure death.
By the time doctors let me off with a clean bill of health, my former 175-pound physique shrunk to a mere 123 lbs in a matter of two weeks.
No amount of veganism or South Beach diet would’ve given me that sleek 21-inch waistline—a must in college life—had it not been for dengue. I still bear the scratch marks to prove it.
Kidding aside, doctors said that if it were not for my being overweight, I would’ve been six feet under in less than four days. Virulent doesn’t even begin to describe the dengue virus.
We’ve all been told about cleaning out wet breeding grounds for mosquitoes; to steer clear of rivers and lakes when the mosquitoes breeding season is at its peak.
Excess rainwater in garden pots, discarded tires, tubes and drain pipes should be dispensed with immediately. Yes, we’ve all been told but never really seriously considered the repercussions of our continuing neglect—to our own detriment.
See, dengue hemorrhagic fever is quick, decisive, and no respecter of persons. It cares little, if at all, about your right to life and property. Your pursuit of happiness, your freedom or rights under a Constitution, mean nothing to a virus-infected mosquito.
It doesn’t give a flying f*ck how rich or how poor you are. It makes no difference to it whether you’re a bemedalled athlete or one of those sentient beings given to the pleasures of a couch potato.
Dengue will strike, whenever and wherever your immune system is down. In a country stricken by outbreaks of measles, poverty, and a system too corrupt and violent to care, death stares you and me in the face. It hunts where it is given the freedom to hunt.
The air it breathes is neglect.
Yes, we can use insect repellants and killer sprays, but remember: It only takes one infected mosquito to bring about contagion. The swift spread of disease will be merciless, unforgiving. Cold as the dead in its wake.
How do I even begin to scare you to such a point that you will act in favor of your survival? If I need to spell it out for all of us, then I would.
After the fever develops into full-blown dengue the body’s capillaries—those thin threadlike blood vessels—become porous or “leaky,” excessively permeable as to allow fluid to escape.
The blood then leaks into what is called the peritoneum or lining of the abdominal cavity. The fluid build-up—termed ascite—puts the patient at risk of kidney and several other infections.
Another serious complication to internal bleeding is pleural effusions or liquid in the lungs—a seriously life-threatening condition prompted by circulatory system shock and eventual failure.
Even as you bleed helplessly inside, the body struggles to fight off a number of corollary infections leading to: diarrhea; abdominal and muscle/joint pains; rashes; hemorrhagic manifestations which include bleeding gums, vomiting of blood, nasal hemorrhage, blood patches in the skin, vaginal bleeding; enlargement of the liver and spleen, gallstone pain; overall blood loss and hypertension, to name a few.
Think of it as your garden-variety death-by-infection weekend B-movie a few days longer than ebola.
Obtrusive at the very least and fatal at best, dengue is the stuff of Lovecraftian nightmares. It’s a carnivore of a disease which literally mangles and gobbles you up like any fang-spangled predator.
Dengue kills in the same way tokhang assassins kill, in the dead of night, the way the corrupt eats away at our country’s resources with little care, if any, about the dignity of the people.
Vigilance is our only weapon against virulence. As parents, we cannot sit around and watch this disease murder us and our children. G