Dengue is abuzz in Singapore with over 21,000 infections reported to date – more than quadrupling the total number of cases last year. We know that dengue fever is spread by an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). When the mosquito takes a blood meal from a dengue-infected person, they can transmit the virus to other people they bite within approximately one week.
As the traditional peak dengue season flies into full swing this August, cases are expected to rise with higher temperatures, stronger diagnostics, and weaker immune systems among our population.
Here are five myths about this flying menace:
Myth 1: The Aedes mosquito preys on people with sweet blood
Have you ever heard the saying “mosquitoes are attracted to sweet blood”? If you’re a fan of bubble tea, do not worry! It’s not the sugar or sweetness in your blood that attracts the mosquito but your blood type. Studies have suggested that mosquitoes are attracted to individuals with Type O and Type B blood. Sweat and body heat attract mosquitoes too.
If you find yourself under the constant attack of nasty bites, avoid wearing colours such as black or red/orange. Studies have shown that mosquitoes are attracted to these shades compared to lighter-coloured clothing. The study’s results confirm wisdom clothiers have long abided by. In the early 1900s, khaki pants were worn in tropical environments, and the US military modified its uniform from dark to light blue dress shirts to lessen the attraction of mosquitoes.
Myth 2: You’re dengue-free for life if you’ve already gotten it
It is possible to be infected with dengue from a mosquito more than once. There are four different strains of the virus, and a person only builds immunity to the particular strain that they’re infected with. It is also likely for dengue reinfections to be more fatal than previous ones. Dengue haemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome is a severe form of dengue fever that could result in death. In the battle against dengue, prevention is better than cure.
Myth 3: Dengue and COVID-19 cannot co-exist
Though both dengue and COVID-19 share similar symptoms, you can be co-infected with both viruses at the same time. As a matter of fact, contracting both viruses may also cause tremendous stress on the body, leading to catastrophic outcomes. If you suspect you’re being co-infected with both viruses, it’s always a good idea to get tested. It’s for your personal safety, and to keep your family and loved ones safe.
Symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of fever for 2-7 days, severe headache with eye pain, joint and muscle pain, skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, and bleeding from the nose or gums or easy bruising of the skin.
Myth 4: The Aedes mosquito only lays eggs in large bodies of stagnant water
We’re all familiar with the Aedes mosquitoes laying eggs on stagnant water in roof gutters and flower pots. But did you know that the Aedes mosquitoes can also lay eggs in tiny puddles of water as small as a 20-cent coin? They can even lay eggs in pockets of water trapped in the crevices between floor tiles. As a rule of thumb, it’s always wise to keep things dry.
Myth 5: A UV light bug zapper is the solution to slaying dengue!
You may feel fulfilled and dengue-free after purchasing that shiny new bug zapper during the latest Mega Sale Day on your favourite e-commerce platform. Unfortunately, the Aedes mosquito isn’t attracted to the UV light in most bug zappers. To make matters worse, the bug zapper may even be killing useful and harmless insects, taking a toll on our ecosystem. There are insects that prey on mosquitoes, like the dragonfly – aka “mosquito hawks” – which feed on mosquitoes, especially in their aquatic larval stages.
To drive away mosquitoes, you may consider using fragrances such as citronella, lemon or lavender to repel them instead. If you’re going on long walks, or taking a stroll at the park, do it with a mosquito patch or spray on some repellent. A little effort goes a long way. If you do get bitten, here are some ways to soothe your itch.