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Dealing with Dengue during Pregnancy

What is dengue?

By now, every single one of you would probably know what dengue is and how dangerous it can be. But for those of you, who are still not very clear with it, don’t worry – we are here to help! Dengue is an infection that is passed on by mosquitoes. Once you get bitten by the mosquito, if you are unlucky you get infected with a flu-like illness. In very rare cases, this infection can develop into a very severe case of dengue, causing it to be a deadly illness.

With the huge rise of dengue cases in our country, it has become a huge worry for people everywhere. It is found to be most common in tropical, sub-tropical and urban areas. Meaning, people in the Klang Valley; be extra careful!

Dengue is now so common all around the world that everyone is at risk of getting it. The World Health Organization estimates about 50 to 100 million dengue infections worldwide every year, with a few thousands reported cases for this year alone. That is absolutely insane, considering the fact that we are only seven months into the New Year!

We all know about dengue and how it is contracted, but did you know that not all mosquitoes carry this virus? Yes, that is true – not all mosquitoes are harmful. It is the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry this virus and spread it through their bites. These mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and are known to bite during the day.

They are most active during the early morning and later afternoon. Mosquitoes are known to breed much more in the rainy season which is when dengue cases shoot up to its peak. These mosquitoes carry the virus with them for life, which is approximately for 40 days.

What are the symptoms of dengue?

Symptoms usually start appearing about 3 days after someone gets bitten by an infected mosquito. Below are some of the symptoms dengue brings to a pregnant woman;

  • Sudden high fever
  • Severe headache
  • Pain in the eyes which cause eye movement problem
  • Severe body ache
  • Loss of taste and appetite
  • Mild bleeding from nose and gums
  • Nausea and vomiting

The symptoms stated above are very common for other illnesses like a common flu and so on; only a blood test would be able to determine if you have been infected with the virus. If you are facing all these symptoms, it is best to contact your doctor and have a blood test done as soon as possible to avoid any possible complications.

Keep in mind

The first thing to do is get a blood test done

The reason a blood test should be done is so that professionals would be able to tell what effect the infection has had on your blood and to confirm that the dengue virus is present in your bloodstream. It is also possible to have dengue but have very mild symptoms. Severe dengue is a potentially fatal complication of dengue that could lead to bleeding and organ damage.

The warning signs normally appear three to seven days after the original symptoms and these can include reduced fever, abdominal pain, rapid breathing, bleeding gums and much more. Most people suffering from dengue take about two weeks to recover but might still feel weak for a couple of weeks after.

Is dengue harmful during pregnancy?

If you are pregnant and happen to contract this disease, it is most likely that you would contract the severe form of this disease. This is because during pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed. You might need to be admitted into the hospital for treatment. However, there have been many cases where pregnant women only had a mild infection of this disease.

However, you would have to face possible complications like pre-eclampsia, pre-term labour and having a low birth weight baby if you happen to get infected during your pregnancy. Dengue causes a drop in blood platelet levels which can be determined by a blood test. Pregnant women who get infected usually have their blood platelet levels drop quite low.

There is a high chance of losing too much blood if you happen to go into labour while you are having dengue and might need a blood transfusion or this could be very dangerous to you and your baby.

How can I get treated?

There is no specific vaccine or antiviral treatment currently available for dengue. The main form of treatment available is to relieve symptoms.

Symptoms can usually be controlled by taking a dose of paracetamol, which is considered to be safe during pregnancy. You would also have to drink lots of fluids and keep yourself hydrated during dengue. Being very closely monitored by your doctor is also very important during this period of time.

People with severe dengue need to get hospital treatment via a drip to prevent them from getting dehydrated, and to stabilize their blood platelet level. People who undergo proper treatment only take a few days to recover and are fit enough to leave the hospital within days. However, if you do not get the right treatment in time – it could cause you your life.

You cannot tell for sure if you are safe from dengue, but you can do your best in attempt to keep the virus away from you. Aedes mosquitoes breed in still water, so be sure to empty any containers in your house like empty flower pots, abandoned ponds or aquariums, vases and old tires. Plus, you could always burn mosquito coils around your house in order to keep mosquitoes away.

Am I immune for life?

Unfortunately, no! No one is ever fully immune to dengue after having it once. The dengue virus has four distinct, but closely related strains. If you have had one strain of dengue, it means you are immune to that one particular strain, however still at risk of contracting the other three.

If you are infected with one strain, and then get infected by another strain of dengue – chances are you might develop a severe form of the disease. This is why it is best to take further steps in preventing the infection.

Keep in mind

Put on mosquito repellent wherever you go

You could also prevent mosquito bites by wearing long sleeved clothes, staying in cool areas – so yes, turn up that air conditioner in your house just to be safe. Plus, use mosquito repellent whenever you go out because you never know where mosquitoes roam.

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