Singapore Adventure

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dengue Fever
by venitha

We returned from Malaysia to the alarming news that our friend Sonja has contracted dengue (pronounced DEN-ghee) fever and is in the hospital. Yikes! Thankfully, Sonja is now definitely on the mend. After nearly a week in the hospital, she was released with a promisingly improved blood cell count on Tuesday.

Aside from the National Kidney Foundation scandal (national meaning Singapore, of course; click here for an amusing satire), dengue fever is the topic of choice in The Straits Times these days, where it is reported that new cases have hit an all-time high of over 360 per week. Signs on the MRT inform us in vivid colors that dengue is spread by an enormous cartoon mosquito - it only takes one bite! We are urged to be vigilant in eliminating pools of stagnant water.

Like the abrupt telephone ring that thrusts you into the bleak reality of an early morning flight, Sonja's illness is a wake-up call. Why did it not occur to me that I might get this disease? Why am I thinking of it, like bird flu and slimming coffees, as something that only affects other people, people halfway across the world, people that I don't have the time or energy to care about? Somehow, amidst all the shopping and the jetlag and the humidity, I managed to miss the fact that I live halfway across the world now and I am one of those people.

Jim and I feel fine, though every slight itch is now a suspected mosquito bite. We think twice about the fact that were with Sonja last week at the Jurong Bird Park just four days before she was hospitalized; four days is the incubation period for dengue fever.

A quick perusal of the long list of vaccinations that Jim and I endured before our move reveals that we are not protected against dengue fever, and indeed there is no vaccination. It can be lethal and is almost always quite unpleasant. Its flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, joint pain, nausea) are accompanied by a nasty rash; Sonja is a sunburned-looking pink. Treatment is rest and lots of fluids while you wait for your body to fight it off.

Sonja's illness also provided us with an opportunity, hopefully our only opportunity, to visit a Singapore hospital. It was unsurprisingly similar to a US hospital, though I enjoyed a happy difference from my last hospital exit: I could walk - skip! - dance! - my way out the door. Only to have to ungracefully check my balance on the slippery wet tile walkway. It was raining hard. That's right; I live in Singapore now.

It rains really hard. Mosquitos can give you dengue fever. Bird flu is a concern. And, hey! Slimming coffees!

Never fear, I will resist the temptation of all of the various "slimming" products and services here. I early-on encountered an article in the paper that was the perfect antidote to the endless onslaught of slimming advertisements. A beautiful young local celebrity marries happily after many trials and tribulations. Last year, the groom proved himself worthy of her love by donating part of his kidney to her after a slimming treatment gone awry.