Understanding and treating dengue
Dengue fever is an illness spread by the bite of mosquitoes infected with one of the dengue viruses. Symptoms are usually flu-like but can worsen to severe dengue haemorrhagic fever, a life-threatening condition.
Most people who get dengue will not have symptoms, but for those that do, the most common symptoms are high fever, headache, body aches, nausea and rash. Most will also get better in one to two weeks, while some people develop severe dengue and will need care in a hospital.
According to Dr Orlando Thomas, medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner at Thomas Medical and Shockwave Centre, the infection is passed from person to person. “The mosquito is the vector that transfers dengue, but the host is us. We infect the mosquitoes and then they pass it on to somebody else,” Dr Thomas said.
Dengue viruses are spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species ( Ae. aegypti or Ae. albopictus) mosquito. These mosquitoes also spread Zika, chikungunya, and other viruses.
“The Aedes aegypti most commonly passes the dengue virus. It is the specie that requires blood to multiply. They get blood from us, so when they suck our blood, they transfer the blood that is in our system and bite someone else, and so it is passed on,” Dr Thomas said.
Almost half of the world’s population, about four billion people, live in areas with a risk of dengue. Dengue is often a leading cause of illness in areas with risk. Each year, up to 400 million people are infected by a dengue virus. Approximately 100 million people get sick from infection, and 40,000 die from severe dengue.
Dengue is caused by one of any of four related viruses: dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4. A person can be infected with dengue multiple times in their life.
“If you are in a house with someone who has dengue, the mosquitoes can bite that person and then bite you, and you almost get it directly. Seventy-five per cent of persons who get dengue has no symptoms. Only 25 per cent has symptoms, and less than one per cent die from dengue. So, your chance of surviving dengue is greater than 99 per cent. It is not that scary, but very serious in some cases, so do not take it lightly,” Dr Thomas said.
Less than one per cent of people get severe dengue and this comes with severe symptoms, including vomiting blood, bleeding gums, severe abdominal pain, rapid breathing, spots on the skin that look red, severe lethargy even after the fever has passed.
Dr Thomas says that while it is easy to fall prey to the mosquito-borne viral disease, recovery can take its time. However, natural home remedies can speed up your healing process and replenish the body by providing essential nutrients in time of need.
Papaya leaves are considered to be one of the best and the most effective natural remedies to fight a dengue infection.
“Papaya leaf juice can be great for boosting platelet count in people suffering with dengue. Platelet count comes down drastically in dengue patients, and it can actually have fatal outcomes. It is important for doctors to work towards boosting platelet count in dengue patients, and for this, papaya juice has been scientifically proven to be beneficial,” Dr Thomas said.
To prepare this home remedy, wash and cut papaya leaves in a bowl and add a glass of water to it. Crush it coarsely to make a watery paste. Sieve the prepared concoction and drink it. This will help effectively in increasing the platelet count and boost your immunity.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness declared an outbreak of the dengue virus on September 23, 2023, due to an increase in cases throughout the island. Over the last three months several hundred cases of dengue have been reported, including of the more severe cases.
To date, there have been over 1,000 confirmed dengue infection cases in Jamaica. All parishes have recorded dengue cases, with Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, St Catherine, Portland, and St James recording the most confirmed cases.