Now that the Dengvaxia program has been stopped, does that also mean we are going to see more dengue cases and fatalities? Not necessarily. We simply go back to the same steps that we really should be taking to keep the virus from spreading. All of these are common-sense interventions that can be implemented easily, and they range from personal hygiene to community action.
The Department of Health (DOH) has summarized these actions into the “4S” program:
1) Search and destroy mosquito breeding places;
2) use Self-protection measures;
3) Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than two days; and
4) Say NO to indiscriminate fogging.
There is simply no reason communities throughout the country cannot practice these, especially since lives are at stake — especially children.
But what if one has already contracted dengue? There are many misconceptions surrounding the illness itself, and because of this the lives of the sufferers become needlessly endangered. Dengue itself does not need to be fatal, but many practices serve to delay the correct treatment. For example, most people think that the main problem is the drop in blood platelet count, and they make patients drink or eat various remedies like durian, tawa-tawa (a medicinal herb), balut, papaya leaves, and camote (sweet potato) tops to increase it.
But according to dengue expert Dr. Richard Mata, platelet count itself is not the problem; what brings discomfort and ultimately kills dengue patients is dehydration. In his website, Dr. Mata explains that dengue causes perforations to form in a patient’s blood vessels, causing fluids to seep out. “The symptoms of a patient with diarrhea are the same with those of a dengue patient,” he says. “I always tell my patients that there are only two diseases in which the patient is still not playful even if the fever subsides: dengue and diarrhea. Why? Because both have the same weapon of destruction: DEHYDRATION.”
Dr. Mata thus prescribes that doctors start intravenous hydration at the second or third day from the start of fever. “Dehydration is more dangerous than a low platelet count. Platelets will naturally increase after six days from the start of the fever as long as you are well hydrated and urinate very very well.”
He also urges parents to err on the side of caution. “Always think about dengue especially if there is fever. Even if the doctor says it is another disease, still think of dengue.” Even if government has stopped the Dengvaxia program, there is no reason to think that dengue will take more lives. As Dr. Mata likes to say: “The cure for dengue is proper hydration — and correct information.”