Why it’s important to understand DENGUE

Every time I write about DENGUE I get emotional. I know too many people who have been affected by it–I have family and friends who have gotten it and survived, and a handful who were not so lucky. It is just so hard to understand how something as little as a mosquito can cause so much harm and suffering. And yet, every year more people continue to get it, which is understandably upsetting, because it seems all our efforts to prevent dengue is in vain.

At the moment, Dengue is the fastest spreading viral disease in the world, and it is also the number one concern here in Southeast Asia (according to the SEA Dengue Survey). Which is why it is imperative that we start the dialogue and talk about it more. We need to raise awareness, not just to moms and dads everywhere but it should be taught in school so little kids know how to prevent it, and in barangays and health centers so each person knows what to do when someone has it. I’m sure I am not alone in this, but I worry about dengue constantly–I worry that my son Tristan might get it, or anyone in my household or family for that matter. It is a scary thought, but it is also very real. That is why we need to be prepared and in control when the time comes.

Looking at the new survey finds, according to Allied Against Dengue (founded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare), it seems most are familiar with dengue, but do not know how to treat it. Some don’t realize they (or their family members) have it and treat it like the flu, or don’t seek medical attention until its too late.

73% worry about dengue, but only one-third feel prepared and in control

More than 70% believe there is a cure for dengue and that antibiotics are needed to manage symptoms

84% are keen to learn more about how to treat and prevent the disease, and parents feel dengue education should be taught in schools

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This only means that we have to learn as much as we can about dengue, and spread that knowledge so everyone knows what to do if and when they have it. Allied Against Dengue (AAD) is an open movement initiated by public and private institutions with a mission to reduce the impact of the disease on society. They are committed to raising awareness on dengue prevention and management across Southeast Asia through engagement, empowerment and education. Two thirds of respondents are anxious about widespread occurrence of the virus, and almost 40% have had an immediate family member who has suffered from it. While governments in the region have made extensive efforts to inform their citizens, dengue continues to threaten our health.

“The impact of dengue has dramatically risen over the past few decades, putting about half of the world’s population at risk,” says Debjit Rudra, Area General Manager for Southeast Asia, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Southeast Asia alone carries the highest prevalence of dengue, affecting 2.9 million people annually, representing the biggest regional burden in the world.”

To be honest, until just recently I didn’t know what exactly what dengue is. I mean, I knew the disease is carried by a certain mosquito and that it has more than one strains, but I was clueless as to how to detect and properly treat it. And I am not alone. Apparently there is a rampant misunderstanding among the public, with more than 70% in the region and almost 80% in the Philippines mistakenly believing there is a cure, or that antibiotics are needed to manage dengue symptoms. A low 28% of Filipino respondents are aware that paracetamol is the only recommended medication for dengue fever management as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). And one of the trusted paracetamol brands in the Philippines is Calpol, which is proven safe and efficient in relieving pain and fever among children who are most vulnerable to the disease.

Beyond management, survey findings also uncovered that there is still a struggle to identify the symptoms of dengue in the Philippines. Only 19% know that dengue can be detected on the first day of infection and that majority would only visit the doctor when fever persists up to 3 days. Ironically, more than half of parents are confident that they would be able to diagnose their children with dengue, which may lead to misdiagnosis and place children in jeopardy. This is scary, because if you mistake this for a simple flu virus and treat it that way, you can seriously risk your life, or your family member’s!

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On a positive note, the survey revealed that 95% of Filipinos are interested to learn more about dengue, and almost all parents feel schools should play a role in educating students about the disease.

Initiated by a coalition of 12 organizations, the AAD launched its pilot educational campaign in Indonesia in 2015, followed by Malaysia and the Philippines. More than 11,500 healthcare professionals and pharmacists joined efforts to empower and educate more than seven million patients on disease prevention and management across digital and media channels, and on-ground activations.

Active members of AAD, alongside GSK in the country, are the Department of Health (DOH) and Mercury Drug Corporation. Each organization provides their expertise in support of defeating dengue burden in the Philippines. This is good news, because these different branches are joining forces to drive awareness and educate people. This is so important, as the lives of our loved ones are at stake.

For more information and to access useful tools and resources, visit Calpol Philippines Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/CalpolPH/?ref=br_rs].

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