My experience with dengue fever

dengue antibodies test igm

I woke up early Sunday morning with a burning fever that came on suddenly. I had a pounding headache and worse still, there was an intense pain behind my eyeballs. I couldn’t even blink without substantial pain.

I was also burning up. You can reach over 40 degrees Celsius in the first few days of dengue infection and the heat was baking off me – so much so that my better half couldn’t stand the heat when she was beside me.

I went to the doctor the next day and she didn’t even know I had dengue fever or diagnose me as such. I was just given a 30 second consultation, given paracetamol and was out the door.

test for dengue

Day 1
High fever, chills, pain at the back of the eyes

I was really, really sick. I couldn’t eat anything and I didn’t want to move at all. When I went to the doctor again, I was bent over from fatigue. It was worse than any flu that I’ve ever had. I slept.

Day 2
High fever, fatigue, stabbing pain behind my eyes, aching joints and muscles

It didn’t get better the next day. The fever had gotten worse and I was waiting my IgM and IgG dengue antibodies results so I could confirm that this is a case of dengue. I slept most of the day.

dengue blood test

Day 3
Fever, fatigue, aching joints, muscle pain, stabbing pain behind my eyes

I would say that the most characteristic feature of dengue fever is the stabbing pain behind your eyes. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I got my results and it was dengue!

rash dengue

Day 4
Diarrhoea, fatigue, nausea, aching muscles and joints

The fever had broke but I was still too tired to get up from bed. I can honestly say that I was bedridden for a full week! I also threw up anything that I tried to eat and couldn’t keep down any fluids.

dengue fever rash

Day 5
Nausea, fatigue, itching all over, rashes

This was when I got a mysterious rash all over my body. It’s very itchy and I couldn’t stop scratching myself. It’s on my feet, my hands, my body and it kept me scratching the entire time I was awake. The only respite is sleep.

Day 6
Itches all over, hives, rashes, nausea, fatigue

It got better on the sixth day and I had daily blood tests to monitor my platelets count. It had dropped really low and I couldn’t seem to heal from the smallest lacerations.

second blood test

Day 7
Lacerations from scratching, itching all over, fatigue

It’s the seventh day now and I’m mostly feeling better, although I can’t get up for long periods of time. It’s very tiring to do even minor chores and I’ve been sleeping 12 hour days without any fluids – a bad thing to do which probably made my recovery slower but I had lots of isotonic drinks courtesy of my dear.

dengue hospital referral

Dengue fever isn’t as bad as some people report. You won’t die if you’re a relatively healthy adult. I got a letter for admission to the hospital but I didn’t go – that is if your platelets count is dropping and doesn’t rally for some reason and it’s a precaution. They really can’t do anything for you – your immune system just has to get rid of the dengue fever virus by itself.

I’ve been through a few (mis)adventures in my life and out of them I’ll rate this as a 4 from a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most painful. 10 would be withdrawing from benzodiazepines without a taper plan at a shitty government rehab centre – you’re shackled and handcuffed and you’re seizing every hour and trying not to bite your tongue and you’re peeing blood from the exertion and your brain feels damaged from all the minor and grand mal seizures and you’re just begging for a higher power to not let you die.

(and you can very well die from cold turkey benzo withdrawal after 14 years of heavy usage)

I’ve also done cold turkey withdrawal from opiates (heroin, oxycodone and methadone) and I’ll rate that a 7 – nowhere near the death experience of benzo withdrawal but still painful. I’ve also had an emergency dialysis done on my neck and that discomfort is probably around 5 so my rating of 4 for dengue fever is just according to my personal experiences – your mileage will vary depending on what you’ve been through. smirk

dengue rash

There’s a positive thing that came out of all this though – I’m immune from this strain of dengue fever forever! You can only get dengue once, you’ll have immunity after that, and considering there’s four (4) known strains out there – that means you’ll get dengue a maximum of four times and you’re set after that. :)

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42 thoughts on “My experience with dengue fever

  1. Oh, I didn’t know we’ll only get dengue once only and have immunity after that.. I thought if that stupid mosquito bites us again, then we’ll get it again.. A very detailed info on dengue, thanks for sharing.. I read your post twice, now thrice.. I can’t believe you could endure that high fever and eye pain for so many days! Many people were admitted for dengue, but yes, if we could heal ourselves at home, why not? Good to know you had lots of isotonic drinks, when I’m not well, I don’t like to drink plain water too, not even isotonic drinks, but if I mix 100 plus with Ribena, I can drink 1 big glass!

    • Yeah, you’ll have immunity towards this strain for life! :)

      Thanks Princess Ribbon, I can drink a lot of water, I don’t mind drinking a lot of water, it’s just that I cannot when I have dengue coz I will just puke it back up.

      I feel very nauseous and weak, even now on the 8th day.

    • Thanks buddy! :)

      Yup, it was a little disconcerting how my platelets count was dropping after the 5th day and didn’t get back up until yesterday but all should be fine now, just need more rest.

  2. Aiyooo!!! Poor you. I had goose bumps reading your details. I am glad you are in good hands now. Your symptoms seem to be different from the 3 fellas who kena dengue in my office. One was bed ridden for over 3 months and almost died but he’s back to office now.

    • It will be worse if this is your second, third or fourth time. :)

      You can only get dengue 4 times max. Also, if you have immune system issues, then that’s a risk factor too. Otherwise, normal folks won’t have major complications – it will look bad e.g. my test results for blood but you can just sleep it off.

    • Indeed! :)

      That’s actually quite useful. Nowadays the PCR IgG and IgM test can tell which strain it is – it’s RM 138 from Gribbles, the normal Quick Test is already RM 100 and the PCR one has more information (and they will fax you the first results in 3 hours too).

  3. I must’ve confused dengue with malaria because i had a vivid imagination that it was something fatal. But glad that you’re recovering and sharing the experience, in a way telling some of us there is hope. You get well there and dont stop writing! =)

    • Malaria isn’t fatal either! :)

      A lot of my friends have malaria from working in timber camps – these are the less academically inclined who did something wrong and had to run away for a couple of years. It’s not that bad from what they say, just need to manage it.

      It is a life long disease though.

      Thanks Coffee Girl! Yeah, I didn’t want people to fear it coz it’s really not that bad. You’ll be down for at least a week though.

  4. oh goosshh.. dengue !!!

    glad that you’re recovering and thanks for blogging about this… makes me realized i should clean some part of the house now !!!

    Please eat well and rest well okay? :)

    • Thanks Rose! :)

      Yup, I’ll be resting for a few more days. Dengue isn’t that bad though – it’s not fatal, a lot of people who actually die or have complications are the ones with compromised immunity e.g. people living with HIV/AIDS.

    • Thanks Mela! :)

      I felt better so I could bring my notebook and prop myself up on the bed.

      I was feeling terrible before that so I can only curl up in a fetal position and use the smartphone.

  5. Good to hear you are recovering HB.

    Did you know there was a Dengue fever outbreak in Tokyo over the summer? Apparently the first time in 70 years? I work with some American clients based in Japan and they were pretty freaked out. It was the first time they’ve heard of Dengue. I just nonchalantly said “Oh we have it all year round in Malaysia”. Hahaha

    • Thanks Vincent! :)

      Wow! I didn’t know that. It’s been on the rise over here too.

      Haha! Good one mate. You made me laugh out loud, that is funny eh? I know some parts of the US, the tropical areas like Florida is getting it too.

  6. ouch. sounds awfully painful even if it only scores a 4. didn’t know you would gain immunity once you got it, or that there’s 4 strains.

    get well soon huai bin :)

    • Yup, you have immunity for life! :)

      A lot of people don’t test for the strain, which can get problematic the next time they get dengue. It’s a RM 138 PCR test (just RM 38 more than the rapid test) and it gives you very complete information and they’ll give you a positive/negative within 3 hours too).

      Thanks Irene!

  7. Oh, my, I didn’t know that the effects of dengue is this bad! =( But I’m glad to read that you’re recovering from the dengue fever, even though it’s at a slow rate, HB. =) Don’t worry too much; have enough rest and you really need to hydrate yourself with those nutrition. Dehydration is the last thing you’ll want on your plate now. =/

    Hope to see you back in the blogging arena after your full recovery. ^^

    Btw, I’m so sorry, Huai Bin. I accidentally deleted the comment you left on my post regarding the Perth’s accommodation (in exhaustion), but I still remember what you wrote on it. =) I actually have no idea if Travelodge’s related to UniLodge, but I’ll ask the employee when I’m in Adelaide… well, travelling between states by car isn’t the best option because Australia’s a country that is spread out sideways. =/

    • Thanks Ciana! :)

      It’s not as bad as some people think, but it’s not a walk in the park either. It’s like getting flu – no one wants to get flu but you won’t die from it either. You’ll just be down for about a week or so.

      No worries! I think they are related and UniLodge is the long term accommodation for students. Have fun in Adelaide!

  8. Well the immunity against dengue is quite different.

    ‘…when a person is infected a second time with a different strain of the virus, the antibodies to the first can enhance the body’s reaction to the second strain and may cause severe dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), dengue shock syndrome (DSS), and possibly death.’

    • That’s the thing! :)

      Researchers still don’t actually know what causes dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome (which is actually a cytokine storm).

      It has been hypothesized that it has something to do with high viral loads, and previous infection is a risk factor (but not a predictor as you quoted) which was why I was tested daily from the 4th day onwards for blood and antibodies levels and the most dangerous period isn’t the febrile phase but after the 4th day.

  9. That’s terrible and I’m glad the ordeal is almost over for you. Yes, you are strong and able to withstand it. Btw, i thought benzo are just some medications for anxieties and depression ? Thus , it shouldn’t be too difficult to rid it. Just curious …

    • It’s the hardest drug in the world to quit! :)

      Benzodiazepines are prescribed for anxiety and insomnia (that was why I was prescribed it at first) though never for depression (it can worsen depression). I was on 40 mg of Valium (diazepam), 6 mg of Rivotril (clonazepam), 4 mg of Xanax (alprazolam) when I was thrown into rehab.

      You can easily have seizures from daily ingestion of that amount before quitting suddenly and also panic attacks (the process of a prolonged panic attack actually causes irreversible harm to come to your brain by killing off hyperactive neurons). The reason you get seizures is that benzodiazepines reduces the seizure threshold when you’re in withdrawal.

      That’s why clonazepam is also used for grand mal seizures – it increases the seizure threshold. When you suddenly stop taking it, your seizure threshold lowers and anything (a flash of light, words on the Bible, thinking about something) can trigger a seizure – I had so many seizures that everyone thought I was going to die.

      The seizures also produces complications coz your body exerts itself every time and nephrotic shock and rhabdomyolysis can occur since your kidneys are trying to get rid of the dead muscle fibers from the seizures/overexertion.

      It’s a nightmare and it’s a high complication detox which no for-profit drug rehab center would want to touch. They want the easy cases (opiate withdrawal, “ketamine withdrawal”, “methamphetamine withdrawal” – the latter two DON’T even have physical symptoms, it’s all psychological and you won’t have medical complications unlike benzo withdrawal).

      I’ve quit a lot of drugs like methamphetamine, opiates including heroin and OxyContin, ketamine, and all those can’t compare to benzodiazepines. Methamphetamine is hard to quit but you won’t die from it. Ketamine is easy to quit, it’s not physically addictive, it’s just something the government doesn’t want you to do.

      Be careful of benzodiazepines – it’s the silent epidemic. Wikipedia has a relatively decent article but there’s more advanced reading if you or a friend wants to try to discontinue with a proper taper plan.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzodiazepine_withdrawal_syndrome

        • I used to pop Xanax like that too! :)

          Mg for mg Xanax (alprazolam) is equivalent to Rivotril (clonazepam) although the former is much shorter acting and more of an anxiolytic while the latter has stronger muscle relaxant properties (good for tapering off benzos so you don’t get seizures).

          Even 0.75 mg of Rivotril daily can be VERY hard to quit when/if you decide to do so. I stabilized myself on 2 mg Rivotril per day for a very long time and that was also very hard to quit (don’t try to do it on your own without a doctor, it can be fatal) although admittedly it was harder when I was abusing them and popping the trio (Valium, Xanax, Rivotril) like candy to the dose just before I went to rehab.

          A lot of people are on benzodiazepines, doctors prescribe them all the time. It’s just a personal choice whether to take it or not, like everything there are side effects and it’s up to the user whether the benefits outweigh the side effects. I was thrown into rehab so I didn’t have a choice and the stupid, uneducated people running the facility nearly killed me by complete cold turkey (it’s supposed to be a long taper).

  10. Good to read that you are feeling better now. Do have more rest and sleep more.

    I thought hemorrhagic dengue fever can be life threatening.

    Did the authorities go to your area to do fogging?

    • Thanks Mun! :)

      Yup, dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock can be life threatening. However, even researchers aren’t sure how it happens.

      It’s been theorized that it has something to do with viral loads which is why I got tested daily after the 4th day (the most dangerous time is after your fever breaks). Having a previous dengue infection is a risk factor but not a predictor of dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock (which is really just a cytokine storm).

      OMG, my place has been fogged almost daily! I think I kena coz of fogging too, it chases the mosquitoes around and it bites other people.

      Dengue is a reportable disease – your address will be submitted to the MOH (Ministry of Health) for mandatory fogging. I think a lot of people in my condo has already got dengue from the amount of times the fogging machine has come.

    • A lot of people has gone through dengue! :)

      Cases have been rising each and every year – KL has the highest rate of infection now despite being a city. Selangor is the second highest.

  11. Glad to hear you are recovering! The first case of Dengue is the mildest, and the second is more dangerous because more risk of hemorrhagic fever. There is no medication to treat Dengue, but blood transfusions can save your life if you are hemorrhaging! Even healthy people can die of Dengue if it is their 2nd infection. Andy Irons is a good example. BTW, benzos RAISE the seizure threshold, they don’t LOWER it. (the lower the seizure threshold the easier it is to have a seizure, at least that ‘s what they taught me in med school!). You are right about Benzos being the hardest to withdraw from (especially Xanax). I was taught to never “cold turkey” someone off benzodiazepines for the reasons you describe/experienced. The recommended taper for xanax is 0.25 mg every one to two weeks depending on the level of anxiety/duration of use etc. And you quit cold turkey??? Ouch!

    • Thanks James! :)

      Yeah, I had a friend who’s having it for the third (!!!) time. There is an increased risk of dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock if it’s your second/third/fourth time too.

      Hmm…benzodiazepines raise the seizure threshold when you’re TAKING it but when you’re in WITHDRAWAL, it *reduces* the seizure threshold e.g. you get seizures a lot easier.

      Oh I get what you mean now, we’re both saying the same thing, I meant to say when a person is in withdrawals from long term heavy benzodiazepine use, the seizure threshold is lower and that’s why I got so many seizures (it’s such a strange an unpleasant feeling – you dread the tremors and “mental hiccups” that precipitates the seizures).

      I didn’t quit benzos cold turkey by choice! :)

      It was a shitty rehab centre (pardon the French) run by the government with no concept of patient safety. I was the first polydrug user (benzos, meth, heroin, ketamine, research chems etc) they’ve EVER seen (most people are in there for methamphetamine) and they didn’t know how to deal with benzodiazepine withdrawal.

      It was a nightmare and to be honest, I can’t remember a large part of it, friends told me how it went after my 6th month (made some friends in drug rehab although I was locked up for the first 6 months due to my withdrawals). Hardest thing I ever done, there were times when I thought I would die in there coz no one understood (or cared) that I was having seizures almost hourly, although they did shut off the light to my cell.

      I find anxiolytics and short lasting hypnotics like Xanax to be easier despite being more potent mg for mg, while long lasting benzodiazepines like Rivotril (clonazepam) is really hard, the ones with long acting metabolites like Valium (diazepam) even harder – the latter two just hit you later and longer and I had the most seizures when I got off clonazepam, likely due to the strong anti-convulsant effect normally, but the withdrawal from Xanax is very intense, I have to admit!

      …and there’s no easy benzodiazepine withdrawal plan, they all suck! :)

  12. I had shivers reading your dengue journey and then I read about ur cold turkeys… omg. Glad that all is well with you now and Happy Anniversary to you and Ling :)

  13. Reading this long afterward. You move me to go put on some insect repellent, since right now in an area where dengue is endemic and the sun is setting.
    Fascinating blog–I could read it for hours!
    I had to Google Andy Irons, not knowing who he was and it looks like dengue had nothing to to with his unfortunate death.

    • Thanks mate! :)

      Dengue isn’t that bad actually. If you have a decent immune system, you’ll probably be okay. It’s like a bad case of the flu. It’s people with compromised immune systems that usually get hit harder than most. Cheers for reading!

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