If you’ve been living in Singapore or Southeast Asia long enough, you’ll have heard of dengue fever. It’s prevalent in Singapore, with many dengue clusters popping up in neighbourhoods across town. There were over 14,600 reported dengue cases in 2019, five times more than the year before – and the incidence of this unpleasant disease is expected to rise even higher. Be prepared, and don’t be one of the unlucky ones!
What is dengue fever?
It’s a severe, flu-like illness that’s transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito.
What does an Aedes mosquito look like?
It has black and white stripes on its body.
What are the symptoms?
It usually takes four to seven days before a person infected with the virus starts to show symptoms. They might experience a sudden onset of fever (which can last for up to seven days). This can be accompanied by headaches, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and a rash.
Can dengue fever be life-threatening?
Severe infections can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which causes bleeding and can result in death. However, statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) claim that dengue haemorrhagic fever represented less than one percent of the 21,000 officially reported cases in Singapore between 2000 and 2004.
Is it infectious?
No, not person-to-person. The virus is passed on to humans only when they are bitten by an infective female Aedes mosquito; likewise, the mosquito generally acquire the virus while feeding on the blood of an infected person.
What should I do if I think I have dengue fever?
Visit a doctor, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Try to stay away from areas where there are mosquitoes, to avoid being bitten and thus spreading the virus to other people. If you develop severe pain or persistent vomiting, go to a hospital immediately.
Can I be immunised against it?
Currently, there are no effective vaccinations for dengue fever available. Although a new vaccine called Dengvaxia was released for commercial use in 2019, healthcare professionals in Singapore discourage the vaccine from being pre-emptively administered to uninfected individuals, citing worsening symptoms after vaccination for those not previously infected with dengue.
There are four strains of the virus here in Singapore; having been infected by one usually gives lifelong immunity to only that type, but only short-term immunity to the others.
When’s the peak season for dengue fever in Singapore?
We are in the peak dengue season in Singapore, which usually stretches from June to October, and the region around us is similarly seeing an upsurge of dengue cases this year.
Where are the dengue ‘clusters’ in Singapore now?
Here are some ways you can prevent dengue fever:
#1 Use mosquito/insect repellent
Since dengue fever only spreads through mosquito bites and cannot be transmitted from person to person, the methods of preventing a dengue fever infection are synonymous with ways of preventing mosquito bites. The first easy life hack is to regularly apply mosquito repellent or wear mosquito patches. Make sure you reapply once every two to three hours, even if you’re in doors.
You could also use mosquito rackets and insect traps, and spray insecticide in dark corners, under the beds, behind sofas – anywhere you’re likely to find mosquitoes.
#2 Get rid of stagnant water
Ensure there is no stagnant water in or around your home and garden. Clear gutters, empty flowerpot plates, change the water in vases, keep buckets over turned and cap bamboo pole holders, if any. They can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
#3 Install mosquito screens
Install mosquito screens on your doors and windows so you can keep them open if you wish. You can also choose to hang mosquito nets over your beds during mosquito season.
#4 Shower regularly
Mosquitoes are able to detect human sweat, heat and breath. For example, you will be particularly prone to mosquito bites after exercising. So, showering after a workout can help bring your body temperature down and reduce sweat.
If, in spite of your best efforts, you notice the following flu-like symptoms of dengue fever, it’s best to see your doctor:
- Sudden high fever
- Severe headaches
- Pain behind the eyes
- Severe joint and muscle pain
- A rash on the skin that appears two to five days after the fever
When left untreated, symptoms may worsen to severe dengue, with these life-threatening complications:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Persistent vomiting
- Bleeding gums
- Vomiting blood
- Fatigue / restlessness
- Severe organ impairment
Protecting yourself in Singapore
Southeast Asia has various health risks, dengue fever being one of them. Getting a private health insurance plan for expats in Singapore is a great way to keep yourself covered amidst high costs of healthcare.
With Pacific Prime, you’ll be able to compare individual health insurance in Singapore and family health plans for free. They offer plans from the top international insurance companies in Singapore. For more information, contact their team of experts or visit their website for a free price comparison quote.
Statistics: Ministry of Health Singapore & National Environment Agency
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