My Dengue Story
People often ask me how on earth did I get into the insect protection business from publishing and I usually refer them to my malaria story though this is only half of the truth. After being given the all clear by the Hospital for Tropical Diseases after contracting malaria, I returned to work on magazines. I still really wanted to travel so in 1998 I went on an 11 day trip to Thailand during the start of their rainy season. Having been put off anti-malarials (For life, because I contracted malaria whilst taking them!) from my India experience I decided to try a homeopathic version. Arriving at Bangrong Pier in Phuket I was dismayed to find that the local ferry boat had just left and not wishing to hang about I chartered a fishing boat to Ko Yao Noi, an island that was off the beaten tourist track, fringing the Andaman Sea.
When I look back now I really didn’t have a clue about many things including how to protect myself from mosquitoes, sure I took along some DEET, wristbands and a torch, but what I really needed was a good mosquito net; nothing that you put on or plug in will protect you all night from getting bitten. Smoke coil rings will stop the insects coming in but as they are poisonous - so much so that people can die without enough ventilation - one scientific study found each coil did the equivalent damage of smoking 100 cigarettes! This is why we make citronella incense sticks as they do the same thing in a non-toxic way. Anyway, I awoke with about 20 bites, the next night was similar and I left the island the following morning in search of relief for my itching bites. I was also getting bitten during the day as the DEET didn’t offer enough protection. I then visited Phi Phi Island and received a few more mosquito kisses before returning to London.
Whilst visiting my youngest daughter’s prospective school the headmistress was talking about their medical facilities.. and that they had a nurse on site, suddenly feeling very ill I raised my hand, in a nervous schoolboy type of way to ask if I could visit her. She took my temperature and promptly packed me off in a taxi to UCL Hospital as it was over 102 and rising. Upon arrival it was over 103 though the doctor didn’t want to admit me, I think they were short of beds, he tried a couple of times to get me to go home but as I was aching all over with profuse sweating and feeling worse than I had ever felt in my life I decided to stay. By now my temperature had risen to 104.1! So I was wheeled along underground to the the Hospital of Tropical Diseases, singing at the top of my voice, “IT’S A NICE DAY TO HAVE A FEVER….” to the tune of It’s A Long Way To Tipperary! It was the only way I could cope with the intense pain. I knew I was in trouble when they escorted this gaunt, emancipated, woman, attached to a drip, out of a quarantined room and put me inside. I don’t remember much more about that night. In the morning a nurse said that the night staff had enjoyed my impromptu concert!
I was later diagnosed with dengue fever which used to be called breakbone fever because of the intense joint and muscular pain. It is a virus only transmittable through the aedes genus of mosquitoes. There is no cure for dengue, like most other mosquito borne diseases, the best cure is prevention and so the seed was born to develop something that really worked without harming the environment; incognito.
Dengue cases have now overtaken malaria ones with over 300m reported between 2019-2020. It is endemic all around the equator and nearly 4 billion people are at risk from contracting it.