Dengue – A Personal Encounter

Dengue – A Personal Encounter

Dengue.

It used to be just a word – one I was vaguely aware of but which held no significance to me. Of course I’d heard whispers of it before and knew that it was caused by mosquitos, but I had no idea how easy it is to contract and how damaging it can be – almost instantaneously.

My ordeal started in a state of complete oblivion. I didn’t even know I had been bitten. Most likely I was pottering about my daily life, hanging the washing, checking the mail, enjoying the sunny warmth of a winter’s day in Townsville. These arrogant little blighters attack in full sun. They prefer not to lurk in the shadows at dusk; instead they launch their assault in daylight.

Ignorant of all facts concerning the Aedes aegypti (dengue-ridden mosquito), I failed to see the white-legged predators who had set up camp in our suburb.

At this point, I feel strongly obliged to mention that no nesting sites were detected in our backyard. We live in a clean home with well-manicured gardens. My fiancé keeps the lawn trim and we have a small but flourishing crop of herbs and cherry tomatoes. It is by no means the plague infested garbage tip which might have once entered my mind upon the mention of dengue. It seems this little soldier was out on his rounds, doing his daily patrol (anywhere between 50-200 metres), in search for human blood.

My demise began on a Sunday afternoon. I had spent the day shopping for curtains with my future mother-in-law. It was a great day and we’d snapped a bargain on the perfect material. Life was good. It wasn’t until I climbed the back steps at home that I knew anything was wrong. I could feel my heart beating. I’m a healthy, fit 25 year old. One simply shouldn’t notice their own heart beating upon walking up to the back deck.

The oddities continued throughout the night as my thumbs began to ache, my calves started to throb and my back felt as though my spine was curling in upon itself. Scared and alone, I realised I was being throng into the symptoms of something far worse than mere fatigue after a long day of shopping. My poor fiancé received several disturbing phone calls as he worked his night shift. The realities of working away from home are significantly heightened when your loved one is screaming and crying hysterically on the other end of the phone. Amongst my blabbing (and possible hallucinations now that I know the full effects of dengue), my poor fiancé was aware that I certainly thought I was dying. I fell into a tumultuous and feverish sleep. 

The week continued with what seemed like endless blood tests and appointments with doctors. The Mozzie Squad were sent to fumigate the house, the yard and basically the entire suburb. Everyone was on high alert and it even made the nightly news. The response and counter attack on the bugs was really quite impressive. And so I remained locked away, wrapped up in blankets like an old, decrepit lady from a Dicken’s novel. I felt the full throw of dengue’s punches and everything in my world came to a sudden stand-still.

Upon Googling dengue you find a whole list of interesting things that will happen to you. From the intense itchiness to a burning, scolding sensation all over my rash-ridden body, I felt it all. I felt terribly self-conscious about my skin, flaking off my face, my dangerously swollen tongue – as a result of a fatigue tonic, and the downward spiral of my mental well-being.

However, on a cheeky side note – as a soon ‘bride-to-be’, the rapid weightless was welcomed. Every cloud has a silver lining. 

Times of sickness can be very isolating and lonely. It’s also a time that can teach you many things. Throughout the worst of it, my fiancé showed me how love, care and understanding can be given simultaneously and without question. He never left my side. From re-heating my wheat packs three times a night, to bathing my hands with ice, nothing was too big an ask for him. Jokingly, I’ve let him know that he has passed his pre-marital test with flying colours, but in all seriousness, dengue is a dangerous virus and I owe my recovery to him.

I found the whole experience to be very humbling. I’ve always been the strong, independent type. But now I feel I have a more realistic understanding of and compassion for people experiencing conditions beyond their control. Sickness is such a debilitating thing and it’s really taught me to be there for those in my life who may fall ill. The importance of being there for someone else should never be underestimated.

As a seasoned traveller, I find the fact that I got dengue at home to be purely ironic. This time last year, I spent two weeks exploring villages and parks in Zambia. Dengue and things much worse were a real concern. My point is this: we should never (like I had once been) be complacent about the real threats of dengue in our town. It’s real but we can do simple things to prevent it. No one wants to experience this. It’s the sixth week since I was diagnosed and whilst the immediacy is gone, the fatigue can still, at times, be overwhelming.

Simply being more aware of the importance of protecting yourself and your family is the first step. So I urge you to have your yards sprayed, do not leave out anything uncovered that may collect water and become a breeding ground. It’s simply incomprehensible how one tiny little insect can turn your world, your income, your priorities, your health, your sanity up-side-down.


For more information on how to practically protect your home and family, please visit: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/ and type ‘Dengue’ into the search bar. 


Written by Tamara Dawson
Having lived in Townsville since 2011, Tamara has fallen in love with the city and lives with her fiancé, who she met after moving here. 
An English and History teacher by trade, she is currently working part time in order to write her thesis for a Masters of Education.

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