Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Breakbone Fever

In case you don't have the full picture on dengue: It starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, and muscle and joint pain. The severity of the joint pain has given dengue the name "breakbone fever." Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are common. Most dengue infections result in relatively mild illness, but some can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever. With dengue hemorrhagic fever, the blood vessels start to leak and cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, and gums. The illness can last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take as long as a month.

By dawn it was clear to me that I was very ill. You can read the symptoms above and nod your head...but until you're in the grip of breakbone fever it's all supposition. For example, in reading these words right now you're using countless tiny muscles you are generally 100% unaware of. When you have the dengue fever these muscles hurt, badly, and using them causes an acute and immediate desire not to move your eyeballs. Ever.

There's nothing like being in the malicious grip of tropical fever in a flimsy nylon tent pitched on the deck of a ruined house to induce abject humility. When I didn't show for work they assumed I'd consumed too much rum. When I didn't show for dinner they came looking and found me crawling on my hands and knees to the toilet. They told me that I claimed to be trying to "get topside for some fresh air."

It was a long month.

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