Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dengue Fever

I was too nervous to blog about this when it happened but I'll blog about it now:

One night when I was in Japan, I skyped with Huyen and she didn't look so good. She said that her head was hurting and actually started to cry while we were on Skype. I was extremely worried and encouraged her to call her sister and to go to the hospital. Huyen is as tough as they come and seeing her cry I knew something was wrong. There's nothing worse than being far from someone and feeling totally useless when they are sick.

Huyen went to the doctor and got diagnosed with "Petechial Fever" from a mosquito. She ended up having to take ten days off and go for IV drips ever day. The first few days were really scary and I started to look into flights back to Vietnam. Luckily Huyen rebounded and soon got better. I had never heard of "Petechial Fever" and did some research online and emailed some doctor friends. There was very little online except for talk about a rash that occurs during the fever. Well, after some more research I asked Huyen if she had Dengue Fever. Huyen looked at me on Skype and said that's exactly what she had. Apparently she had looked up her illness in a dictionary and it had two translations. The first was Petechial and the second was Dengue. As soon as I learned that she had Dengue I started to freak out. I don't know too much about Dengue but I know it is really painful and potentially fatal. I emailed my mother's cousin Herb who was a US Army doctor in Southeast Asia for many years. He emailed me right back and told me that Dengue is often called "Break Bone Fever." Herb told me that he had Dengue twice and wasn't embarrassed to admit that it brought him to tears because of the immense pain.

This was a few months ago and Huyen is now back to 100%. However, dealing with Dengue was very scary and something that most people outside of Southeast Asia have not heard of. Unfortunately that might now be changing because Dengue has been spreading outside of this region. My sister emailed me this article in Newsweek:

Dengue Fever Could Be Next Public-Health Threat

Andrew Bast

Last Spring the threat of swine flu sparked a panic: the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, universities and drug companies kicked into overdrive to develop new vaccines, and governments raced to stop the virus's spread. Meanwhile, another global public-health threat proliferated virtually ignored: dengue fever, a potentially lethal mosquito-borne disease traditionally found mostly in Central America and Southeast Asia.

The numbers on dengue's expansion are staggering. While the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported that H1N1 had killed 11,749 people as of December 2009, the WHO reports that "explosive outbreaks" of dengue hospitalized half a million people last year. Forty years ago, the disease struck only nine countries; it is now endemic in more than 100. And it's not just a disease of the poor south. Dengue has spread into a large swath of the U.S. (39 states) and has climbed to the second most common illness that European travelers bring home. If global warming continues and the mosquito's habitat spreads, more than half the world's population will be at risk, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute. While London, New York, and Beijing pour millions into warding off swine flu, dengue's scourge--and spread--continues. It may not threaten to shut down the global economy, but it's a growing killer that deserves some attention of its own.