It’s one of those diseases spoken in hushed tones with a gut-wrenching horror story attached. Your girlfriend’s best friend’s mum’s brother had it and now they are dead. It’s certainly not a disease I ever gave a second thought as we travelled the world.
Until that fateful day.
It was a Tuesday. We had spent a fun week in Seminyak, Bali with my family and had finally moved into our villa in Ubud, where we were to spend the next 6 weeks resting and catching up on work.
Part of my new routine was to attend yoga classes with my good friend Sabina, who lived down the road. I woke up a little achy and thought ‘this is a good day for yoga’. It was my first time.
The class was hard. A few times throughout the session I thought I would vomit and my whole body ached. I also felt hot, but considering I was doing yoga in an open-air room in tropical Bali perhaps it was nothing. After the session I collapsed into bed for a few hours before heading to Sabina’s for a swim and some lunch.
Still exhausted I returned home and lay in bed again. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that Josh checked my temperature and I was a very toasty (and concerning) 39°C. Eek!
What is Dengue?
Dengue Fever is a disease caused by a virus that is carried by certain mosquitos. The mosquito passes it onto humans as it bites. There is no cure or real treatment, and it kills over 25,000 people a year. It’s a serious disease that can leave you bed-ridden for up to 6 weeks.
Symptoms can include high fever, chills, headaches, eye pain, red eyes, enlarged lymph nodes, a red flush to the face, lower back pain, extreme weakness, and severe aches in the legs and joints.
My body ached for about 4 days - muscles, joints, you name it. I was achy everywhere. I thought at first it was from the yoga. But eventually realised it was something else.
I lost my appetite, which NEVER happens to me. When I normally get sick I always eat. But not this time. In those first 5 days I ate perhaps 2 pieces of toast.
But my fever lasted 5 long days. From Tuesday to Saturday I had a very high temperature. I’ve never been sick that long before and it was torture. Sometimes the fever would drop and the sweats would start. Then the fever would reappear suddenly.
At this stage I wasn’t sure what I had and it was on the 5th day I finally let Josh call me a doctor. Not just for my concerning fever, but on the 5th day my skin also broke out into a large red, splotchy rash. Something weird was going on.
On the 6th day my hands and feet became swollen and even more red (if that was possible). It looked almost like severe sunburn, or perhaps I was transforming into a strawberry. I could not put pressure on my hands or walk properly on my feet, it was very uncomfortable and painful. This lasted 2 days. And the hot showers I had been enjoying several times of day, which helped my achy joints, suddenly caused acute pain.
This characteristic combination of fever, rash and headaches is called the “Dengue triad.”
Most people recover fully from Dengue Fever, although weakness and fatigue may last for several weeks. Once a person has been infected with Dengue Fever, his or her immune system keeps producing cells that prevent reinfection for about a year.
The same day my fever finished (on day 5) I also got my appetite back – I was ravenous, but as you can imagine I was also only eating small amounts. A great start to my Bali body detox!
By day 7 my hands were no longer itchy, but still slightly swollen. My feet were still extremely sensitive. But I can notice a considerable improvement.
There is no known treatment for Dengue. Doctors suggest paracetamol for the headaches and body pains, but that is all.
You have to also keep your fluids up and most people who end up hospitalised with Dengue is because of dehydration.
Once a member of a family or travel group is infected with the Dengue-causing virus, the disease can easily spread through mosquitos. So we were careful to cover up around dusk when the mossies came out, and liberally applied mosquito repellent. We also setup small electric mosquito repellents in each room that gently heated a liquid that deterred those winged beasts.
Bali Medical Treatment
When the local doctor came to visit on the 5th day I had already broken out in a rash and he thought it was highly likely to be Dengue Fever.
Josh had called the Toya Medika Clinic and the doctor turned up on our doorstep with 2 bag-wielding assistants and a female nurse, who did all the physical work like taking my temperature and drawing my blood into a vile.
He provided a couple immune-boosting pills to take twice daily and told me I would have the blood test results back in 4 hours.
Unfortunately Dengue is hard to pin down in blood results since you have to catch it early or late. So while my blood test report said negative for Dengue, when the doctor returned the next day and my rash had spread further, he confirmed it was a mild case of dengue fever.
For 2 doctor visits to my house and 2 sets of blood tests the total cost was IDR 2,127,760 (approximately AUD$205). Thankfully Travel Insurance Direct were looking after us again so I didn't need to worry about the costs in the midst of it all.
I am currently on day 8 and feeling much better. It wasn’t exactly what I imagined my first week in Ubud to be like, well kind of. I did want to rest and I did want to eat well, so I guess I kind of fast-tracked that first week.
Now that I am moving again perhaps I can actually take a ride on that scooter we hired or get a massage or visit my friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have them visit me every other day, but staying home in bed for a week is not my idea of fun. Enough rest, let’s get back to the party!
While in Ubud we stayed at Tjampuhan Hotel & Spa for a few nights - check out prices here.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
I was happy when I found out I had dengue. The doctor had previously thought I had Leptospirosis which is transmitted by rat urine. A mosquito-borne disease seemed much better.
My husband had it in Mexico in October! Very scary stuff! Hope your feeling better!
YIKES!! I've heard of Dengue, and I know its in parts of Mexico here, but I certainly hope to never experience it. Is it the one that also has a common name about Broken Bones because of how it makes your bones ache?
Glad to hear you are on the recovery side of things. Take care of yourself, my dear.
Oh goodness! That is terrible. Wishing you a speedy recovery and good health to you all. Thanks for the info.
So sorry to hear that! Dengue is no fun... Hope you will be back on your feet soon.
Oh no, that's awful. I hope you recover as soon as possible. But thank you for sharing. You're right, not many people talk about it. In fact, I'd forgotten about Dengue and here I am in Thailand sometimes forgetting to use my insect repellant. Ooops.
So sad to hear about your sickness, Erin. :( Very glad you are feeling better. :) We want to have you guys over to dinner soon!!
Erin, I hope you are feeling better real soon. Dengue is something I have not given much thought to, but I will be careful of mozzies now.
Yikes, another person getting dengue. We have had people around us get it but we have dodged it so far. Note to self, where did I put the mozzie repellent?
Glad to hear you are on the mend :)
Wow Erin, What an ordeal. Glad you are up and around better and able to hit the pantry. Sending well wishes your way!
Oh my ! That's a terrible experience. Glad to see you are doing better!
I am glad that you are better! I am scared of the fever, but I got used to the mosquitos here that I forget about sprays all the time.
Oh Erin. That's awful. Glad you are on the road to recovery, lovely. x
So glad that you're feelin better!!! Wow!! --- Enjoy the journey, Mama!! ;)
it has been 2 years for me and I am still unwell with Dengue caught in Bali mostly my feet now but still lots of headaches and def only Dengue .. I am glad it was only a week for you,
I have been told in some cases it is many years of problems related to Dengue
Glad you have recovered!! I caught a mild case case of dengue too. But in the second week I got worse with other symptoms. Turned out I caught typhoid as a result of the dengue. The typhoid kicks in because the dengue roots your immune system. The double wammy is quite common in Indonesia. It took me over 2 months to recover. I was a walking skeleton
Oh, that's so sorry if you caught dengue! My dad caught this disease on my homeland (it's endemic here), and he's diabetic, so, this was a very bad experience :( i never caugh dengue (thank God), but I caught chikungunya when I was only 14 years old, and I spended 6 months very bad, with excrutiating joint pains. The joint pains in chikungunya look likes your bones are breaking. It was a awful experience. I hate chikungunya. And I'm scared with the increase of dengue cases here on my hometown. Sorry if you found any writ error, I'm NOT from USA or England.
The first time that I went to Thailand I got Dengue hemorrhagic fever. I was sick for 6 months. My brain swelled, I thought I was finishing sentences when I wasn't. I couldn't move form the couch for weeks and weeks - ungodly fever, swollen joints, swollen liver and eventually lost my hair in spots when I thought it was done and over with. That was three years ago - unfortunately I had a knee injury while away that happened when the virus was dormant in my system and have never fully recovered.
That being said - I went back to Thailand a few months ago. Deet, deet, deet!!! Can't stress that enough.
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