MANILA -- While dengue can be fatal, experts say patients or victims can survive the disease through early diagnosis, prompt management, and constant monitoring.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease which is common in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is characterized by bodily pain, headaches, high fever, rashes, and stomachache.

Melanie Turingan, 37 years old, recalled that she had dengue at least four times when she was young.

"Una akong nagka-dengue noong 9 years old ako, then grade 4 and 5 na yung iba. May panahon na pasukan at bakasyon iyon eh (I first had dengue when I was 9 years old, then Grades 4 and 5. There were times when I got sick during school and vacation time.) Last was in high school," she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Turingan shared that she had on and off fevers before she was diagnosed with dengue for the first time.

"'Yung pinakamatindi ay dumudugo na 'yung ilong ko, ang pinakamatagal na lagnat ko ay (The worst [dengue attack] is when I had nosebleed, the longest time I had fever) is five days," she said, adding that she got the disease from mosquitoes at school and mosquitoes inhabiting the moist corners of their home.

Melanie Turingan, dengue survivor, says her parents made her drink lots of water as per doctors' advice whenever she had dengue. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Turingan)

Increasing figures

The number of dengue cases in the country continues to rise. According to the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau (DOH-EB), there were 59,139 dengue cases from January 1 to April 6 this year.

The DOH-EB said 32,611 dengue cases were recorded for the same period last year. It added that about 237 deaths have been recorded, which is higher than the 175 deaths reported in 2018.

In an earlier interview, DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said the cases are expected to rise in June which is the start of the rainy season.

"We're preparing because we're expecting 2019 to be a big dengue year. The way dengue behaves is that you get one or two years of low cases and on the third year, tumataas ([it] rises)," he said.

With 6,587 cases and 38 deaths, the DOH-EB said the Central Visayas region has the most number of dengue patients. It is followed by Metro Manila with 5,504 cases and 18 deaths, and Caraga with 5,224 cases and 15 deaths.

The Ilocos Region had 1,286 cases with 2 deaths; Cagayan Valley, 4,476 cases with 22 deaths; Central Luzon 4,566 cases with eight deaths; Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), 5,614 cases with 21 deaths; Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), 1,884 cases with six deaths; Bicol Region, 1,160 cases with eight deaths; Western Visayas, 5,122 cases with 31 deaths; Eastern Visayas, 2,506 cases with 10 deaths, Zamboanga Peninsula, 2,775 cases with 20 deaths; Northern Mindanao, 4,400 cases with 12 deaths; Davao Region, 2,129 cases with three deaths; Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato Province, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), 3,959 with 13 deaths; Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, 708 cases with seven deaths; and Cordillera Administrative Region, 1,239 cases with three deaths.

Staying hydrated

Since fever is one of the symptoms of dengue, Tondo Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Jeffrey Castillo said children or adults must be seen by a doctor during a sudden onset of fever to ensure they receive appropriate treatment.

"Sa mga pasyenteng naka-admit dahil sa dengue, dapat may constant monitoring ang mga nurse kasi minsan may mga pagkakataon na bumababa ang kanilang blood pressure at nagiging unstable ang vital signs (For patients admitted [in hospitals] due to dengue there should be constant monitoring by the nurses because sometimes there are instances when their blood pressure goes low and the vital signs become unstable)," he said.

Citing that dengue is a viral disease with no specific medicine to cure it, Castillo stressed that dengue patients must be kept hydrated.

"If the patients are allowed to eat and drink, it is best to increase intake of water to keep them hydrated. It is advised that they don't take colored liquids and food because their urine output and stool are monitored," he said.

In connection to this, Turingan shared that she is usually on water therapy whenever she has dengue.

"Iyong parents ko pagkagising ko palang water na talaga. Sabi ng mga doktor mga 72 hours ang normal treatment ng dengue, kapag after three days meron pa delikado na daw iyon at iyong ibang patients may blood transfusion pa, luckily di naman ako umabot doon kasi nga palagi ako umiinom ng tubig (My parents made me drink water as soon as I wake up. The doctors said the normal dengue treatment takes 72 hours, it would be dangerous if you still have dengue after three days and other patients have blood transfusion, luckily I didn't experience that because I took lots of water)," she said.

People who have had dengue at least four times are able to develop immunity against the disease, Castillo said.

"According to the World Health Organization, dengue is caused by a virus of the flaviviridae family and there are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the virus that cause dengue and recovery from infection by one provide lifelong immunity against that particular serotype. So kapag nagka-dengue ka na (if you had dengue) due to that strain, it provides lifelong immunity already," he added.

Department of Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo says those who have been injected with the anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, are still susceptible to the disease so it is best to see a doctor when a person experiences sudden fever. (Photo by Ma.Teresa Montemayor)

Prevention is better than cure

Being a mosquito-borne disease, the DOH urged the public to avoid possible attack of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Domingo said such mosquitoes also breed in stagnant waters, such as those in clogged rain gutters, sewers and discarded tires.

"Iyong dengue mosquito kasi bites during the day so usually mga dawn hanggang an hour or two after sunset, so during the day syempre nakakatakot pa rin dengue sa mga bata (The dengue mosquito bites during the day so usually from dawn until an hour or two after the sunset, so during the day of course dengue is still unsafe for children) and then the very old, so protect our children," he said.

He added that the public must practice the 4-S strategy in their households -- search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites; self-protection measures like wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and daily use of mosquito repellent; seek early consultation; and support fogging or spraying only in hotspot areas where increase in cases is registered for two consecutive weeks to prevent an impending outbreak.

Meanwhile, Turingan shared that since she had dengue, they have observed cleanliness at home.

"Sa CR dapat malinis at nakatakip yung timba kapag may tubig. Mas safe kapag wala na lang tubig para hindi pamugaran ng lamok. Tapos, vitamins lang araw-araw at insect repellent especially kapag hindi mo kabisado ang mga lugar na pupuntahan mo (The CR must be clean and the pails of water must be covered. It is safer if there's no water there so mosquitoes won't inhabit there. Then, take vitamins daily and apply insect repellant especially when you are to visit a place unfamiliar to you)," she said. (PNA)