Busted: 7 myths about dengue fever you always thought were facts

Dengue fever? Nothing serious compared to Covid-19, right? Perhaps not. Did you know that...?

In 2020, 32 people died from dengue fever in Singapore, while Covid-19 claimed 29 lives

Dengue fever may not be receiving as much coverage as Covid-19 in the news, but we should probably be taking it just as seriously. That’s why we’re here today to debunk 7 myths about dengue fever so you can #staysafeathome.

Myth 1: I’ll get dengue if I get bitten by mosquitoes with white-striped legs

While it is true that only Aedes mosquitoes (the ones you’ve been trained to recognise, with white-striped legs) can carry the dengue virus, you will only get dengue fever if the mosquito that bit you was already infected with the virus.

You’ll never be able to tell which mosquitoes are infected though, so the best way to prevent the spread of dengue is to not get bitten in the first place. Remember to use mosquito repellent regularly, especially if you will be heading outdoors!

Myth 2: Dengue fever is harmless

Dengue fever cases may be mild, with symptoms ranging from fever to muscle aches and rashes. However, normal symptoms also include high fever, pain behind the eyes and vomiting/nausea, so there will be significant discomfort. Most symptoms do disappear after a week, with no serious or fatal consequences.

However, dengue fever may also lead to Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS), which both have severe symptoms. Without prompt medical treatment, these conditions may lead to death.

Myth 3: I’ve had dengue before, so I have lifetime immunity

There are actually four different dengue viruses, creatively named DenV-1, DenV-2, DenV-3 and DenV-4. If you’ve had dengue before, you will only have immunity against the strain of virus that you were infected with. In addition, if you get infected with another strain of dengue, the risk of getting Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is higher.

Myth 4: If I get dengue a second time, I’ll die

It is true that a second dengue infection carries a higher risk of developing into Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS), which may be fatal. However, not everyone who gets dengue a second time will develop DHF.

DHF symptoms usually appear 3-7 days after the onset of normal dengue symptoms. They include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions, bruising, and uncontrolled bleeding. Severe cases may progress on to DSS, involving circulatory system failure and shock. Without medical treatment, DSS is fatal.

Myth 5: Papaya leaf juice can cure dengue

It is true that drinking papaya leaf juice helps with the blood platelet count recovery in individuals with dengue. However, this does not mean that the disease is cured. The juice does not have any properties that act against the dengue virus itself.

Myth 6: You’ll only get dengue if you get bitten at night

Dengue is spread by two species of mosquitoes - Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both of these mosquitoes are more active in the day, with peak biting at dawn (soon after sunrise) and at dusk (just before sunset), so it is definitely not true that you’ll only get dengue if you get bitten at night. However, mosquitoes can adapt to artificial lighting, so you may still get bitten by Aedes mosquitoes at night.

Myth 7: I’ve sprayed lemongrass essential oil on myself so I am safe

Natural essential oils have been shown to repel mosquitoes. That being said, you may not be completely safe if you are not applying it frequently enough (once every 1-2h, as recommended by an NEA spokesperson), as natural repellents do not last as long as conventional chemical repellents. However, do take note that more is not always better - concentrated essential oils should not be slathered onto the skin, as it may cause burns and sensitivities.

In addition, some mosquito repellents may not completely repel all mosquitoes. The best way to prevent the spread of dengue ultimately boils down to preventing mosquitoes from breeding in the first place, so remember to do the 5-step mozzie wipeout regularly!

Let’s all #staysafetogether

We hope that this article has debunked some of the myths about dengue fever that you might have believed in. If you exhibit any symptoms of dengue fever, please seek medical help immediately, especially if you’ve had a prior infection!

Let’s all do our part to prevent the spread of dengue fever together! Stay safe everyone!


What we’re doing to help

At Oceania Robotics, we’re developing the world’s first mosquito-control robot, Dragonfly. Find out more about O.R. Dragonfly and our other robotics solutions today.