Singapore is not safe from dengue yet. Last year's record 32 dengue-caused deaths—the highest so far since 2005—have cautioned us to prepare ourselves for another possible outbreak this year.
As with many diseases, there is often a lot of misinformation surrounding dengue. Dr Zheng Shuwei, infectious diseases consultant at SKH, sheds light on why 2020 saw a spike in dengue cases, and why we should never underestimate dengue.
"More individuals working from home due to the COVID-19 situation could be a contributing factor to last year's record number of cases, as the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits dengue is found mainly indoors and bites during the daytime," shares Dr Zheng.
It could also be due to an observed increase in a dengue strain which was previously less commonly seen here. "The prevailing immunity against serotype 3 (DENV-3) is low and could be the cause of the high number of infections in 2020," explains Dr Zheng.
There are four strains of dengue virus known in Singapore, and a person develops immunity only against the strain he or she had recovered from. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from dengue is not to be complacent, and to arm yourself with the right information.
Uncover the truths behind these myths
1. Getting dengue is like getting a bad flu.
TRUTH: Dengue is more severe than flu. In some cases, the virus can lead to more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever. It can be fatal if complications such as failure of the lungs or liver arise.
2 Only kids and the elderly are susceptible to dengue.
TRUTH: Anyone can get dengue, and the disease tends to be more severe in the very young and elderly, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
3. I can stay safe from dengue when at home.
TRUTH: The Aedes aegypti mosquito has adapted to living in urban spaces with humans. Staying at home means being at higher risk of being bitten.
4. If I've had dengue before, I won't get it again.
TRUTH: There are four strains of the dengue virus. Contracting one strain results in immunity for that
one type only. You're still at risk for the other three strains.
5. Dengue is contagious.
TRUTH: Dengue fever does not spread directly from person to person but the virus can be spread to
humans through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. A person suffering from dengue fever can infect mosquitoes too.
6. I can only contract dengue if bitten by the Aedes mosquito at night.
TRUTH: The Aedes mosquito is a day-biter. It is most active during dawn and dusk.
7. Only dirty water is home to the Aedes mosquito and its breeding ground.
TRUTH: Mosquitoes can breed in all stagnant waters. In fact, the Aedes mosquito prefers to breed in clean, stagnant water.
8. If my platelet count is very low, I have dengue.
TRUTH: There are many causes of low platelet count, although dengue fever can be a common cause.
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