It starts after four days with a fever which turns into a splitting headache, both of which don't really ever go away. Once the muscle pain, intermittent nausea, and sporadic vomiting set in, one has to think for a second to see if, yes, the pounding in head is still there and, yes, so is the fever. This goes on for almost a week. Welcome to your bed.
This is Dengue fever, a viral disease, transmitted by a mosquito (the Aedes aegypti to be specific), that I had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing all last week. (This blog is a chronicle of my life in Colombia, good, bad, and ill but I'll spare the play-by-play details of the later!) Unfortunately, at present there is no vaccine or drug regime for Dengue, meaning one must wait the whole ordeal out in nauseous agony until it passes.
After three days in bed, not eating much more than orange juice, Sprite, a banana or two, and crackers, I made a Sunday morning trip to the nearest hospital's emergency room. I was pleased to see that the medical facilities and efficiency were on par if not better than most North American hospitals and my friend, Nira, who helped me through the ordeal since I could barely walk without feeling like I had been put on a tilt-o-whirl, told me the particular hospital we were at was one of the best in Colombia. Three I.V. bags of saline and about five hours later I walked out hydrated and with a prescription for two different pain-killers and some pills to help keep my platelets up.
The next few days were again spent in bed, but with the pain medications and passing of time, I found I could walk a little further each day. At the beginning simply descending the stairs to unlock the front door earned me a rest on the couch, but a couple days after the visit to the hospital I had enough stamina to make it a few blocks to my local bakery.
The tricky thing about the transmission of Dengue, which attacks the blood's platelets is that it is most often found in urban areas, unlike other mosquito-borne diseases like Yellow Fever or Malaria. The Aedes mosquito is also most active in the late afternoon and early evening hours, but obviously not all Aedes mosquitoes carry the virus. I do not wish this on anyone and hope that one day a vaccine is available, much like the one for Yellow Fever or cholera, that one can take before entering an endemic area.
After about a week since the virus passed through my system, I am finally feeling back to my old self. My weight is climbing back to normal and I feel strong enough to return to the track for my running work outs. I can not remember ever being knocked that flat from an illness before and I hope I never have anything that can compare in the future!