You Give Me Fever...

Dengue season is here - along with malaria, chikunguya fever, and all sorts of other unpronounceable mosquito-borne diseases. After the rainy season starts, the mosquito numbers swarm, and the diseases steadily increase in cases. We've been hearing a lot about neighbors and staff coming down with fevers, and a lot of it gets narrowed down to one of the three diseases I mentioned. Most of the time, they aren't seriously ill, but one of our staff had a very close brush with death last week.

One of the guys working for SP in a village area about an hour from Poipet became sick a few weeks ago. He was admitted overnight to a clinic, discharged, then returned with vomiting and bleeding - sure sign of dengue fever gone bad {dengue rhymes with Bengay}. After a few days, he worsened, and they took him to another hospital in a city about two hours from Poipet. Then Thursday night last week, we heard that he was in the ICU and not expected to live through the night. The doctors said he was "hopeless" and there was nothing else they could do for him.

Dengue is a disease that can either be a miserable but nonfatal few weeks, or turn into a fatal hemorrhagic disease. The virus is spread by mosquitos - it bites a sick person, incubates the virus, then spits it into the bloodstream of the next person it bites. The less serious form causes "break-bone fevers" - high fevers with severe muscle, bone and joint pain, so bad that patients sometimes feel like their bones are breaking. But some people actually get more sick when the fever subsides, and the disease morphs into the hemorrhagic {bleeding} phase. The blood vessels become leaky, which causes fluid to shift out of the veins into the body's tissues. The platelets drop, which means the body can't stop bleeding efficiently. And the patient can go into shock, because there's not enough fluid in the blood vessels to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.

So when we heard the staff member was so sick, it was pretty scary. And our staff went right into action, sending out texts to every Christian they knew, asking for prayer. Several staff got up and drove to the hospital in the middle of the night to be with him and his family and to see if there was anything at all they could do. And everyone prayed, hard, that God would save the life of this young man.

And despite a "hopeless" situation, he recovered. He went from deathly ill to sitting up in bed, talking, in a matter of hours. It was amazing to see God work, as the doctors were amazed that he was still living the next morning.

But for so many Cambodians, they won't recover. So far this year, over 7,700 cases of dengue fever have been reported, and 26 people have died. Even without deaths, dengue can severely damage a family's financial stability and health. If the breadwinner of the household is taken ill, the family will lose income from the breadwinner and any caretakers, as well as lose any savings (or go into debt) to pay for medical care and transportation. One case of dengue fever might be enough to push a family on the edge of poverty into destitution. And dengue isn't the only culprit - we haven't even begun to talk about the impact of malaria and other diseases on a family's ability to survive and thrive.

So how do we avoid it? Mosquito nets at night (or screens on your windows, which only a minority of people in this country actually have, including us). Long pants and sleeves when possible. No standing water for mozzies to breed in. And bug spray on any exposed skin. After you hear stories of near-death experiences, it's motivation enough to make all those precautions daily habits!
post signature