travel

"I could barely walk." The Bali holiday that quickly turned into a nightmare.

I had a rubbish start to 2016.

I was made redundant and I slipped into a mild depression. I had gone from being an in-demand media professional to sleeping past 10am and wearing pants every other day (true story).

I saw cheap tickets to Bali and I thought, ‘What the heck’. I deserved this trip. I’d worked my ass off in television for years. Plus, it would give me time to figure out my next move.

I invited my ex along, who lives in Singapore. I figured if anything could get me out of this funk it would be Bintang, beach, and my very own Mr Big (the similarities really are remarkable).

Listen: Meet the couple who retired in their 30s and moved to Bali. Post continues… 

Bali lived up to its expectations. I drank, I swam and I tanned – I was back, baby! My only gripe was the mild case of Bali Belly I had on the plane ride home (awkward).

Little did I know my nightmare had only just begun.

I arrived back on a Tuesday morning and felt off. I know my body and I knew something wasn’t right, but I put it down to the bad piece of fish I ate on the way to the airport.

Then, I woke up on Sunday morning with the most intense joint pain. I couldn’t touch my skin without wincing. I thought it was the flu and continued about my business with the help of paracetamol and water.

By Thursday I could barely walk. My brother took one look at me and drove me to the hospital. I dropped to my knees in the waiting room and began to cry. I didn’t have the energy to move.

'Bali was amazing - but little did I know what was to come.' (iStock)

The moment I told the nurse I had been in Asia and had flu like symptoms, her face dropped. I knew she was thinking Zika virus — hell, I was thinking Zika. I was quickly shuffled into isolation and anyone who came in contact with me wore one of those terrifying space suits. But this definitely wasn’t the flu.

A series of painful tests ensued. One test I remember vividly was the “Blood Gas Test”, where they put a needle in my wrist and began to move it around. The pain was enough to make me pass out. The doctors were stumped and I was scared. Then I got a text from the ex and my heart sunk.

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"How are you? I’m in hospital with dengue fever.”

I told the doctors and they quickly diagnosed me with the same thing — a disease I wholeheartedly admit I knew nothing about.

My symptoms included a fever along with a headache so intense I sat in a dark room with sunglasses on. The headaches were accompanied by a pain behind my eyes that I’ll never be able to fully describe, and I also had muscle and joint pain, gum bleeds and a red rash across my arm and legs.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection found in tropical and subtropical climates worldwide. It causes flu-like illness and can result in death. The mosquitoes carrying the dengue viruses — Aedes Aegypti — are most active from dawn to dusk, but they can also bite at night. They breed inside and outside the home in containers holding water and rarely fly more than 200 metres from the breeding site.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 390 million dengue infections per year. The WHO also estimates 3.9 billion people, in 128 countries, are at risk of infection with dengue viruses.

I spent my time in and out of consciousness, either sleeping or crying. I had developed this horrible rash across my entire body and there was this intense pain in and around my eye sockets. I had doctors from various hospitals and university students alike gawking at me. My platelet count had gone down to a level considered critical, which means I needed a transfusion.

My idiocy and ignorance almost cost me my life.

stressed
"It was the hardest thing I have ever done." (stock image)

So how does you protect yourself against dengue fever? Trust me when I say I’ve got you covered:

  • Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing. Remember, mosquitoes that carry the dengue viruses are most active from dawn to dusk, but they can also bite at night, so I highly recommend sleeping with a mosquito net. I also carry a plug in mosquito zapper (plus refills) that you can buy from any major supermarket chain.
  • Wear loose protective clothing. My doctor told me clothing with a lot of movement will deter mosquitoes (clever, eh?).
  • Use mosquito repellent. You can buy repellent specifically for your clothing. You can also buy clothing with repellent already added to the fabric. For your skin, use a repellent containing at least a 10 per cent concentration of DEET. I highly recommend Bushmans Plus with sunscreen. I also use mosquito bands and a nifty little clip on gadget called Portable Ultrasonic Mosquito Repeller, both from a brand called Mozzigear. For those worried about DEET or with young children, I recommend consulting a medical professional.
  • Last but not least, you need to reduce mosquito habitat. The mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus typically live in and around houses, breeding in stale water that can collect in such things as used tires. Reduce the breeding habitat to lower mosquito populations.

Still, my nightmare isn’t over; having already suffered from dengue can put me at greater risk for a more severe infection down the road.

So while I’m not going to let it change my travel habits, I'm definitely going in there prepared.

Tags: bali , dengue-fever , health , mosquito , travel
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