Let’s Talk About Dengue This Thursday. Or…Not a Good Diet Plan

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.

Credit: Image by Max Englund/UNC Medical Center News Office

Credit: Image by Max Englund/UNC Medical Center News Office

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About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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23 Responses to Let’s Talk About Dengue This Thursday. Or…Not a Good Diet Plan

  1. Sunnymikkel says:

    May you feel better soon, your SU, friends and gatos need you back to full strength, up and about in da campo!

  2. pklainer says:

    Karen, of course your regular readers noticed your absence. I was afraid you were sick, as I figured if you and Eric were traveling you’d have let us know. Glad to hear you’re recovering. I know you’ll get good medical advice about this dengue episode. My nephew got the milder strain in Thailand, and he was advised that a subsequent infection would be more likely to result in the hemorrhagic version. I don’t know if that’s still the thinking. If so, does this change your comfort level with living in Panama? If so, it’s a real bummer. Sending you hugs and good wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. Fondly, Pam

    • indacampo says:

      It’s my understanding that since I’ve now got an immunity to one of the strains (there’s four), the likelihood of getting one of the other more virulent strains is greater. I don’t know about “comfort level” though. I’ll have to think about it, this virus makes one a little weepy so I could tip either way right now. It has certainly brought home that it can happen to anyone at any time when you’re least suspecting it. Gracias for the good wishes. I’m getting a little cabin fever so that’s a good sign, right? 🙂

      • pklainer says:

        for Karen: I’m sure. Walks on the beach sound just about right. Take care of yourself, and give the recovery the time it needs. I’m so glad you got only a mild strain of this illness. Sounds bad enough!!

  3. allig565 says:

    Exactly! I just thought you were taking a break, since you have kept us so informed of “the Campo” for so long. I am sending many hugs from Chame and hope you heal quickly in 2015!

  4. Oh my gosh! Karen!! Thats just terrible! I’m so glad your on the mend. SU took really good care of you! I just thought you were taking a little break, but what a bad reason for a break. Keep getting better! Hugs!

  5. thepazeras says:

    So sorry to hear.
    Speedy recovery wishes and a healthy New Year!

  6. thepazeras says:

    BTW.. are you happy with the medical care you received for this?

    • indacampo says:

      Yes, I was pretty happy with the care. Pedasi does not have a laboratory in the town Salud so we knew we’d have to go to Las Tablas or Chitre for a blood test and because I was feeling so poorly we just went to the Las Tablas hospital which is a public hospital. I think that I hit the ER at a good time both times I visited although the waiting room and lab was by no means empty. The doctors and nurses are obviously used to dealing with patients with Dengue and were not panicked and so I wasn’t either. Each visit cost me $2.00 including the consultation with the doctor and a full panel of blood and urine tests. I was only in the ER about an hour both times including the time spent in the lab. The first doctor I saw spoke English but we ended up with a version of “Spanglish” as I could understand most of what he was saying. The second doctor spoke very little English but I was able to understand what she was telling me and she was very good about showing me the comparison between my two blood tests and what the normal “viral load” is.

  7. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that you have had dengue. Even a mild case really sucks. I’m glad you are on the mend, and hopefully every day will continue to be better.

  8. Sounds like you’ve had a miserable time of it and what a nasty way to end the year. Glad you’re feeling better, healthier and stronger day-by-day. Looking forward to reading many more posts in 2015! Anita

    • indacampo says:

      Thank you. I feel a little better every day. All the best to you both during your adventures in 2015!

  9. I missed you! & los gatos. I expect they keep you good company during your recovery. Hope your are on the mend & feeling stronger.

    • indacampo says:

      Boomer is a good little companion but the weather has been too beautiful and breezy to keep Bandit indoors with me. 🙂

  10. Pathway To Portugal says:

    Thank you for sharing even in your misery. Those of us looking at Panama want to know the good AND the not so good. I hope you recover quickly. What a great SU you have too.

    • indacampo says:

      I think any place that doesn’t get cold enough to kill the nasties off every year is going to have issues. It’s a trade off. 🙂

  11. Loca Gringa says:

    Ouff! My friend, I am so sorry to hear you got bit. So far I’ve evaded dengue and malaria, the chikungunya has kept me suffering for 6 months now! As there was no immunity here for that disease almost 1/2 of the population has contracted it. Hope that’s not out there for you too!

    • indacampo says:

      As I said I feel very fortunate that my case was mild. My girlfriend was saying that it’s a good thing that it wasn’t chikungunya or heaven forbid ebola, so there are ways to count blessings even when one is suffering. 🙂 Rest well. Let’s send a curse to the people who don’t agree with those genetically modified mosquitoes that will help eliminate the Aedes aegypti.

      • Loca Gringa says:

        The better course of action is developing vaccines! At least those don’t foul up mother nature :/. Chikungunya hurts and can hurt for a whole long time but wont likely kill you unless frail. Dengue and malaria can be far far worse!

  12. raj484 says:

    So sorry to hear this. Thanks for sharing your experience as many of us who are in Panama are curious about dengue. I’m glad to hear you are doing better. Just give yourself the time you need to recover and you’ll be up and running soon. Happy New Year.
    Suzi Jensen

    • indacampo says:

      Thank you. It’s difficult to know how much to do, I was talking about it with SU yesterday. It’s not like one day you’re sick and the next everything is back to normal. Two weeks later I still itch and by 2:00 I’m ready for a nap. 🙂 But like we said, if I don’t try to push myself I’ll never know what I’m capable of doing. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year to you.

  13. Pingback: Dengue ~ The Gift that Keeps on Giving | In Da Campo

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