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With the Covid-19 outbreak occupying headlines in Singapore and around the world, it’s easy to overlook another insidious virus that’s been spreading under the radar: dengue fever. So far this year, there have been 19 deaths, more than 18,000 dengue cases reported, and a whopping 413 active clusters, a worrying statistic that’s accelerated by frequent rains and hot, humid weather – ideal conditions for Aedes mosquitos to breed.

Wondering how you can protect yourself and your family from this disease? Here’s an overview of the signs and symptoms of dengue fever, as well as the costs involved in the prevention and treatment of the sickness.

The symptoms

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Dengue fever

The signs and symptoms of dengue fever are actually very similar to that of a regular flu. The biggest tell-tale signs are rashes and bruising/bleeding from the gums and/or nose, as well as easy bruising of the skin.

  • Fever for two to seven days
  • Severe headache with pain behind the eyes
  • Joint and muscle pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Nose and/or gum bleeding and/or easy bruising of skin

Dengue hemorrhagic fever

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (or dengue shock syndrome) is a severe form of dengue fever that can cause complications resulting in more widespread bleeding, low blood pressure or shock, and even death. You might also experience severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, a sudden change in body temperature, irritation and/or mental confusion. Other symptoms of dengue shock syndrome includes restlessness, cold and clammy skin, and narrowing of pulse pressure.

  • Stomach pain and/or tenderness
  • Severe vomiting (more than three times in 24 hours)
  • Bleeding from nose or gums
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in stool
  • Feeling tired, restless or irritable

Treatments & costs for dengue fever

Most cases of dengue fever are relatively mild and these are usually diagnosed by general practitioners at family clinics. Aside from medication and tests, regular consultation fees should cost you between $20 to $55. For those who prefer to go to a polyclinic, subsidised consultation fees for adult Singaporeans can cost about $13.20. However, if a visit to the A&E is required for more serious cases, do expect to fork out around $120 at a government hospital.

Your doctor will examine and advise you, and if dengue is suspected, a blood test will be done to confirm it. They will look at your platelet count – for reference, normal levels are around 150k to 450k per ml. Most patients will be prescribed with a long MC to rest and recover.

However, if your platelet count drops too low (under 80k per ml), you may be hospitalised and kept under observation. Bed rest will be required to lower the risk of you injuring yourself by accident and causing excessive bleeding in the process.

Dengue fever vaccine (Dengvaxia)

Currently, there is only one dengue vaccine in Singapore, Dengvaxia. The vaccine is developed by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, and was first licensed and approved for use here in 2015. According to the CDC, Sanofi Pasteur “announced in 2017 that people who receive the vaccine and have not been previously infected with a dengue virus may be at risk of developing severe dengue if they get dengue after being vaccinated.”

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As Dengvaxia is still a controversial treatment, most clinics here do not carry it. It is, however, available via Raffles Medical clinics at $529.65 for 3 doses (including consultation) and is suitable for individuals between 12 to 45-years-old – do note that speaking to your healthcare provider is highly advisable before considering this option.

Dengue fever insurance

AIA Singapore has just launched a free dengue insurance scheme for Singapore residents aged up to 64-years-old. The offer is for the first 200,000 who sign up by 15 July 2020 and the policy expires by 30 September 2020. The coverage includes:

  • $1,000 lump sum for hospitalisation due to dengue fever
  • $100 lump sum if insured is diagnosed with dengue fever
  • $10,000 lump sum death benefit upon death of the insured person due to accident or dengue fever

The other dengue insurance option is TM Protect MosBite by Tokio Marine.  It’s a yearly personal accident plan with a 100% benefit payout for dengue fever (and other mosquito-transmitted viruses).

However, dengue-specific coverage may be an overkill for most. If you’ve never been the kind to read the fine print, it may surprise you that most personal accident insurance plans actually already cover dengue fever (and other mosquito-transmitted viruses).

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Measures to prevent dengue fever

Of course, prevention is always better than the cure. Treatment for dengue is rarely that expensive (unless hospitalisation is required), but as there is no cure for the disease yet, waiting it out can be very uncomfortable.

Here are some tips to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your home, as well as some helpful information about dengue in general.

  • Remember to apply insect repellent if you’re going to cluster areas, and avoid risky areas during dawn and dusk (that’s when they bite the most).
  • Aedes mosquitoes are easily identified by the black and white stripes on this body and legs.
  • Check and remove stagnant water in your home. Make sure to check under flower pots and roof gutters. For more information, please read the NEA official mozzie wipeout guide.

Text: Eugenia Liew / Money Smart