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Summer is approaching, mosquitoes are making a comeback and so is the dreaded dengue virus, which means it is time to clean up the puddles, put up the netting and start fumigating and other mosquito repellent measures.

In the past years, I have had some patients come to me after being misdiagnosed by their local GP and given a ‘cocktail’ of antibiotics, anti-malarial pills and painkillers. The problem is that such cocktails make the platelet count drop faster if the patient has contracted dengue and can be fatal. Such drugs, as well as painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin, should never be taken.

Other patients, even well-educated ones, are panic-stricken after they have been diagnosed with dengue. Their immediate reaction is, “please admit us to a hospital!” after which I have to spend a considerable amount of time counselling and explaining to them that the majority of dengue patients can be treated at home, by taking fever reducing agents such as panadaol, paracetamol and plenty of water.

The problem, sadly, is that because of the way the disease has been sensationalised, many people associate dengue with death, (the fact that both words begin with the letter ‘d’ does not help) which thankfully is not the case. In fact, at least 95% of dengue patients do not experience any complications and are cured within five to seven days.

Some dengue patients are also under the misperception that they have to take the CBC(Complete Blood Count) test at least three times a day, which is not correct; the test should be conducted once a day only.

The good news for everyone is that a vaccine for dengue is in the works in Thailand; it is under trial, and if all goes well, the incidents of dengue will be reduced drastically. n

– Dr Tariq Sohail Mir
The writer is Senior Medical Officer, Department of Isolation and Dengue, Civil Hospital, Karachi.