Dengue Fever Blues

Source: phuketgazette.net

Dengue fever. I had heard the name of the disease quite a few times throughout my life, ever since my childhood, and I had always taken it lightly. Of course you are not supposed to get freaked out by a disease you don’t even know about when you are a child, until recently as all that changed  A serious dengue fever epidemic broke out in Punjab with its greatest concentration in Lahore. Thankfully, as yet, I or anyone that I know personally have not been infected yet, which is a great advantage of not living in Lahore right now, or say, the parts of Lahore which are getting affected the most, as there are many cities within cities.

Becoming sick in a country where an epidemic outbreak is wreaking havoc can be a very dangerous feeling. In case of dengue fever, caused by dengue virus of the genus Flavivirus spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitoes recognized by its distinct white spots or stripes, the very thought, let alone actually contracting the fever, is probably much more excruciating than any other disease. There is a reason for that. The symptoms of the disease are so vague and commonplace that everyone who gets ill can start fearing for their lives.

Of course, the bone-breaking part of the fever and the appearance of the rash are very specific symptoms that point towards dengue fever, but other than that you would never be able to tell if you have the virus in your veins and if you are in risk of developing serious complications that it could lead to. So it is only natural that the entire city turned up to get themselves tested for dengue fever at hospitals in Lahore. What makes things even worse is that in many cases, it remains asymptomatic. Surviving with the dengue fever virus can be alright, but that exposes other people to the risk of infection.

No one would be afraid of, or even give a damn about the dengue fever thing had so many people not died because of it in its present outbreak in Lahore, with over 5,000 cases reported, over 100 lost their lives and many ill even at this time as I write these lines. I have not kept the exact count of the deaths caused by the epidemic, or at least that is what have been thought to have caused those deaths, but each time you hear the news of more deaths, it shakes you for a minute, frightening you, while also alarming you and renewing your caution.  Although statistically, the death toll resulting from dengue fever is supposed to be extremely low. Maybe, the deaths caused by now have been extremely low. Who knows. One death seems a lot.

This is where an epidemic can be frightening. It is living among death, in a sense. But not too much. I recall that the world has seen worst epidemics, and pandemics for that matter. Wonder how they would have lived through the Black Death.

There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever, they tell me. This is how much control we have over the life of the patient, but the treatment is based on symptoms.

This makes you wonder how helpless we are. The only way to evade the disease is to kill mosquitoes and not to let them bite you. Simple. But it is not that simple. At the same time, the politics people argue about it as usual and people die, suggesting that perhaps not even an alien creature can unite the human species. So much for Roland Emmerich’s ideals. If you don’t believe me, you can enlarge a mosquito to giant size and see for yourself what I mean by the alien creature. Now I spend my days dodging it all the time.

Although dengue fever poses a statistically small threat of hemorrhagic fever resulting in death, but how do you know you are not under the risk when you suffer from it. And there is no way to kill the microbe because it is a virus, yeah right. That’s just about how strong human beings are on a cosmic level. The question is what is the point of creating all the sophisticated weapons in the world, which are supposed to protect you, when you cannot even protect yourself from a damn virus, or even a mosquito if its occurrence is not prevented in the first place.

This also raises a question about priorities. Neither will everyone see this nor necessarily agree with it, but why cannot humans as a species concentrate on research that allows them to overcome microbes and diseases resulting in severe complications and deaths with increased focus, and I mean spending more on it than on other apparently useless ventures, as I am sure medical research is always an ongoing process and has made tremendous progress.

Because to me, the measure of the scientific progress of the humans is the absence of a vaccine for a microbe that causes a deadly disease. And I am not even talking about the efforts of the local governance because usually this particular disease breaks out in countries with low resources and generally incompetent and/or corrupt governments.

However, I salute all the medical professionals whoever they are and where ever they are working against this epidemic and curing people and most of all, offering them hope for life. I can never do that. Believe me, you live like never before after you have a close encounter with death.

Why not wage wars and Crusade and Jihad against mosquitoes, especially the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, instead of each other.

At least I am declaring Jihad against mosquitoes.

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