Those who’ve been reading from the early days of this blog faithfully (more or less) may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything at all for a few weeks. Although I did drop off with the amount that I’ve written because I was busy there has been another reason I’ve had to take a break.
Looking back on my posts it’s been almost a year since I last wrote about mosquito bites and the Dengue virus. I’ve written about bugs in Panama and the various types of bites and illnesses that go with them by my count at least six plus times since I started writing this blog. This time though bugs and bites have become a little more problematic as I’ve been recovering from Dengue Fever.
I can’t say with any certainty where I was bitten by the dreaded Aedes aegypti mosquito only that it had to be sometime around the 12th or 13th of December as it takes about a week for the virus to incubate. My symptoms began with nausea and high fever in the middle of the night. I thought perhaps that something that I’d eaten wasn’t sitting on my stomach very well. If I had drunk I would have thought it was one of the worst hangovers that I’d ever had. I was hot and cold throughout the night making several trips to the bathroom thinking that if I could just control my roiling stomach I’d feel a bit better. Then the chills started and I couldn’t get enough blankets to keep me warm. The next moment I’d be throwing off the covers as my fever spiked. By the next morning I was pretty ill with a massive headache that felt like there were knives shoved into either side of my temples and a severe backache that it made it uncomfortable to lay in any one place. As SU rose the next morning I weakly called out to him that I was “really sick”. Throughout that day I don’t remember other than taking a few acetaminophens and SU taking my temperature in between sleeping and waking for a few minutes at a time. Even drinking water made me want to be sick.
By the next morning when I still wasn’t feeling well, suspecting more than just the flu, SU insisted on taking me to the hospital in Las Tablas for a blood test. I still don’t remember much about it, other than I managed to shower and get into the car for the ride. After describing my symptoms the doctor on duty sent me for urine and blood tests at the lab. After returning to the doctor’s room he informed me that I had a urine infection (it’s not unusual to contract a secondary infection with Dengue when the immune system is down). My “viral load” in the blood test was still not far enough in the “abnormal” area but he insisted I return in three days’ time for a further blood and urine tests and prescribed something for my infection and “only acetaminophen, no aspirin” four times a day to control which was now a constant low-grade fever. He sent me on my way insisting that I drink plenty of fluids and rest. Not to worry, I was so tired I spent most of the next three days sleeping for most of the day and then still sleeping through the night.
For four days I had no appetite and the only thing that started me drinking again was a cold bottle of Gatorade that we had in the fridge. After that, SU kept me supplied with Gatorade and water and slowly I began to feel a little better. In trying to get me to eat he bought the ingredients to make me chicken soup, pulling out the store of chicken broth I’d been keeping in the freezer for just such an emergency.
When I returned to the hospital on Christmas Eve to have further tests done, I was still pretty tired and weak. This time I saw a different doctor who showed me how my “viral load” had changed significantly and it was definitely Dengue. After checking for the rash that usually accompanies Dengue Fever she prescribed an antihistamine to be taken every eight hours for five days. Again, she insisted that I keep taking the acetaminophen for my lingering fever and to drink lots of liquids and to return to the hospital if I began bleeding from my eyes, nose, ears or mouth or any other orifices.
Almost two weeks after my first “attack” I’m still quite tired and not ready to resume a full day’s activities. I’ll be forever grateful that our friends had us over for Christmas dinner. I managed to stay awake for and I actually ate a fair amount, my first “real meal” in several days. I still haven’t developed the rash but I have experienced phantom electric shocks on my arms and legs, itchy palms, body and soles of my feet. The back pain took several days to go away, settling in my pelvis and I still feel like I haven’t quite got full range of movement back in my legs. Although I’ve stopped napping during the day I still rest a good deal and I’m usually asleep by 8:00. My appetite is still not back and I only eat when my stomach tells me I need to and then only things I “crave”, preferring to drink Gatorade and water. Drinking a smoothie in the morning with some protein powder helps start the day and I’ve gone back to having a small cup of coffee in the morning.
SU has been great about trying to get me to eat and not insisting that I sit down for a full meal that I wouldn’t be able to stomach. Every day I feel just a bit better and I’m able to do just a little more. Most people suffering from Dengue Fever get better within 2 weeks. Some people can feel tired and depressed for months after the infection. I’ve only felt a little weepy one day so far so hopefully I’ll be on the mend sooner than months from now.
Dengue is widespread throughout Panama and Latin America. In our little town alone I’ve heard of at least eight cases in the last month or two, and those are the ones I know about. I’m very grateful that my case appears to be a mild one. This form of the disease hardly ever results in serious or fatal complications. There are now no vaccines for Dengue Fever, although there is one undergoing testing. The best way to prevent getting Dengue is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and pants and using repellant containing DEET if you’re going out while the biters are about. The global spread of Dengue affects an estimated 390 million people per year across 100 countries, with potential for further spread and is now moving into Mexico and the lower USA, most notably Florida.
I noticed that I picked up some new readers while I was gone, welcome to you all! Happy 2015 to all of you out in Blog Land and thank you for stopping by. Hopefully I’ll be up and running full speed within the next week or so.