TEN DAYS FROM HELL: A diary of my dengue hospitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic
According to the organization World Mosquito Program (WMP), the still-ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic makes dengue outbreaks more likely across the globe. Professor Scott O’Neill, director of the WMP, explained that people are more vulnerable to get dengue now because they spend more time at home. He also added that community initiatives against dengue like mosquito fogging have been halted because of the pandemic.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported last November that the total number of dengue cases in the country declined between January to October, 2021 compared to the same period the year before. However, it reported a clustering of dengue cases in Metro Manila, Region IV-A, as well as in Davao City and General Santos.
For its part, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) noted that COVID-19 and dengue fever can have similar symptoms especially in the early stages. I experienced that first-hand back in December 2020 when I was diagnosed with dengue – about three months before I got COVID-19 as well. Here’s a timeline of what I went through:
December 21, 2020 – I began experiencing mild headache by night time. I attributed that to not having enough sleep due to a speaking engagement earlier in the day. I then took paracetamol and had warm bath, and eventually went to sleep.
December 22, 2020 – My sleep was repeatedly interrupted because of chills. I was already feeling feverish, but I was unsure about my body temperature because I did not have a thermometer with me. Later on, Later that morning, I began self-isolating as I found out that my body temperature was already at 38 degrees Celsius. My condition continued to deteriorate as I also began feeling headache and body pain.
December 23, 2020 – Given all the symptoms I was experiencing, I decided to undergo a swab test for COVID-19. The family decided that I should remain in isolation unless it turns out that I am negative. There was no improvement in my condition, and I was having difficulty sleeping.
December 24, 2020 – This was the scariest day ever. With the COVID-19 swab result still not released, my family decided that I should remain in isolation and not take part in our noche buena. Apart from the symptoms I have been experiencing the past two days, I vomited thrice – and its brown color indicated that it’s dried blood. At this point, I even recorded videos of myself speaking about my condition though I had to stop it because I was just breaking down.
I also began losing appetite. Imagine, my mom brought me noche buena and I cannot get myself to eat! I slept that night convinced that I have coronavirus.
December 25, 2020 – Early morning of Christmas Day 2020, it turned out that I was negative for COVID-19. While I was happy to get that news, it left me with the question: Why am I sick?
Later that day, I went to the emergency room of a private hospital here in Quezon City to have myself checked. I expected to be sent home as soon as the doctor on-duty orders whatever laboratory examinations and medicines were necessary. But I was wrong!
The NS2 antigen test revealed that I have dengue fever – with my platelet level plummeting to 34 (the normal is 150). I guess my situation wouldn’t have worsened had I been tested for dengue and not COVID two days before. The doctor told me I had to be admitted, and so my hospital confinement began on Christmas Day.
December 25 to 30, 2020 – I spent the next five days in hospital confinement. Thankfully, the medical interventions were done just in the nick of time. My platelet level gradually recovered from just 34 to 43 then 58 then 76 until it reached 180 by New Year’s Eve. Thanks to medicines, headache eventually disappeared along with the body pain. By December 30, I was finally discharged.