Vampires and their chief, named Dracula, are popular characters featured in many horror stories and movies. Thus, most of us know them well. Perhaps at some point of time, we were even tormented mentally by these blood thirsty, ‘go for the jugular’ frightening figures. They seemed so real in our nightmarish dreams. We know they are just fictional, but that doesn’t make them less frightening.
Ironically, the real ‘vampires and Dracula’ are around us. Nonetheless, they don’t seem to raise an alarm among many of us. Named Aedes, mosquitoes they are, yet literally they are vampires in the true sense of the word – dark, hairy and have a long spear-like mouth (proboscis) with six razor sharp ‘fangs’ that are used to sink into our skin to draw our blood. These deadly blood suckers are inconspicuously small and elusive, yet real and immensely dangerous. They steal our blood in clear daylight and infuse us with their biological weapon – the dengue virus that makes many of us sick and some die of it.
Aedes mosquitoes are one of the deadliest creatures on Earth. The war between these little mosquitoes and the most intelligent species on Earth, human beings, has been ongoing since time immemorial.
They bite us. We swat them. Then, they take revenge, hitting us hard with ‘advanced warfare technology’ by using biological weapons, 150 years ahead of us: First, they transmitted the yellow fever virus in 1867, then dengue virus in 1907 and lately Chikungunya and Zika viruses in the 1950s, causing a Zika virus epidemic recently. Fortunately, the Zika virus epidemic was quickly terminated. Otherwise, normal human beings would be gradually replaced with their new generation of small brain mentally retarded babies that are born to Zika infected pregnant mothers.
Aedes mosquitoes launch a major attack on us every five to six years with their favourite virus – dengue virus. The last major attack in Cambodia happened in 2012. Forty thousand people were down with dengue fever. Among them 160 died.
In the first three weeks of this year (2018), dengue fever cases increased by 130 percent, thus heralding the start of a major outbreak this year. Six weeks later, the number escalated to 800 cases, prompting Dr. Ly Sovann, the director of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department to urge the public to take necessary preventive measures against the spread of this deadly disease.
On June 8, Health Minister Mam Bun Heng himself repeated the call for action, in anticipation of worsening situation during the rainy season. In Cambodia, the rains come when the southwest monsoon wind blows from May to November. The wettest months fall in the months of September and October.
Dengue is a disease with no specific treatment. To date, there is no effective vaccine or antiviral medication against dengue virus. About one to five percent of those infected shall die of the disease. Among those diagnosed with dengue fever, there are no clear clues to predict who are the ones that will die. Thus, those confirmed infected need to be admitted for monitoring of signs of complications that may lead to death, so that supportive fluid treatment can be instituted promptly to avert it.
Dengue is both a great mimicker and deceiver. They can present like a common cold, throat infection, gastroenteritis or other common viral or bacterial infections. Unless one has a high index of suspicion, the diagnosis of dengue is often missed. Fortunately, we now have good blood test to assist us to confirm or rule out dengue infection.
For a potentially fatal disease that frequently spreads like wildfire, the best approach to it is PREVENTION.
We know that dengue is caused by dengue virus that is injected into us by the female Aedes mosquitoes. We can’t do anything about the virus but we can certainly kill Aedes mosquitoes or prevent them from biting us. Thus, our fight should be aimed at the Aedes mosquitoes. We should destroy them and take all the necessary precautions to prevent them from biting us.
To minimise the spread of dengue by adult Aedes mosquitoes, fogging with insecticide within a perimeter of 100 metres of the house where the infected person stays, would be ideal. Killing the adult mosquitoes is inadequate. More importantly, the larva of Aedes should also be destroyed as far as possible. All of us must do our part to destroy the breeding ground of these mosquitoes. Empty containers must not be left out in the open compound to collect water. Vases with water in it, should be inspected from time to time for the presence of mosquito larva. The water needs to be changed if larva presence is noted. Infected people should be quarantined and protected against Aedes bites with a mosquito net.
Finally, the exciting news is out just a month ago. There is finally a glimmer of hope in our war against the Aedes mosquitoes. In northern Australia, 80 percent of the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever have been wiped out. In this pioneering trial, millions of male Aedes mosquitoes were bred in a laboratory and infected with a natural occurring bacteria, Wolbachia, that made them sterile.
From November 2017 to June this year, they were released in a small farming town called Innisfail in Queensland. Over three months, these sterile male Aedes mated with female Aedes who laid eggs that did not hatch, causing the population of the Aedes mosquitoes to fall by 80 percent. Mankind has finally used a biological weapon against Aedes successfully. Nonetheless, we are 150 years behind our enemy. Still, it is better late than never.
This column was fast tracked in order to warn my readers of the impending hard strike by Aedes during this rainy season. My next column will be on ‘Feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless.’
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases, excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skills in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977