Tired? In a rush? A bout of dengue should fix that – or maybe not!

Publié: 22 juillet 2014 14:15 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

I was working in the field in Tacloban and Leyte and living in base camp, which – to be frank – was next to a large swamp strewn with rubbish. Even though we’d all had health and security briefings, there were times when I didn’t take all necessary precautions with sprays and lotions; usually when I was tired or in a rush.

It’s also hard when you’re relying on other people to play their part in common living and sleeping areas – closing screens, zipping up tents properly, making sure pots and containers get emptied out after it rains.

When you’re in the field and running around it’s easy to forget all the precautions. I remember one time we did a couple of interviews right next to all these upturned coconut shells and old tyres filled with rainwater because the TV crew wanted the audience to see people’s living conditions. I should have said no to them, and possibly avoided getting dengue. Next time I will!

I count myself lucky because my symptoms were mild compared with everyone else’s. In fact by the time I made it to the medical centre I was actually recovering! I experienced stomach pain and tiredness, and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Colleagues who had dengue at the same time were much worse and ended up in hospital being transfused. The doctor said something interesting – that the dengue virus exploits your existing weaknesses, ones that could be subclinical or asymptomatic. At least I know what mine are now!

No-one seems to know why some people have a worse time than others, and there is quite a bit of confusion about the symptoms because they don’t necessarily follow the classic signs we are warned of – joint pain, headaches, pain behind the eyes etc.

What I can say about dengue is don’t underestimate how much time you will need for recovery - and don’t push yourself when you are back at work. You’ll feel great one day and awful the next. Also, people should remember to stay well hydrated when working in the heat and humidity. If you need to go to the loo, don’t be shy about asking to use a latrine – I’ve come across women delegates and volunteers who don’t pee all day because they dread having to ‘go’ [in the Philippines it’s called a ‘comfort stop’ or CR].

It’s easy to overlook the simple precautions – long sleeves, socks and plenty of re-application of DEET. Sure, it’s a pain, but it’s better than getting dengue.  Note to IFRC fashion coordinator: can you please invent a uniform shirt with long sleeves?


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