A worker fumigates an area in Pangwa, Aceh, in 2016 to prevent an outbreak of dengue fever. (Antara Photo/Rahmat)

Beyond Corona: Dengue Fever Cases in Indonesia Nearly Reach 70,000

BY :TARA MARCHELIN

JUNE 22, 2020

Jakarta. The Health Ministry said there have been a total of 68,753 cases of dengue fever throughout Indonesia this year. More than 400 cities and districts have also reported cases of "double infection" where patients were infected with both dengue fever and Covid-19.

"We've recorded more than 68,000 dengue fever cases in Indonesia with 446 deaths," Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the ministry's director of vector transmission and zoonotic disease prevention and control, said on Monday.

Nadia said the dengue fever outbreak usually reaches its peak in Indonesia in March, but even this month there was still a significant increase in cases from 100 to 500 per day.

The ministry also found that provinces with the highest number of dengue fever cases also report the most number of Covid-19 cases, including West Java, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, East Java, Lampung, West Nusa Tenggara, Jakarta, Central Java, Yogyakarta, Riau and South Sulawesi. 

Moreover, 439 out of 460 cities and districts throughout Indonesia also reported double infection cases. 

"A Covid-19 patient can also get dengue fever, which is also caused by a virus and for which there is no known cure. Vaccines are not effective against dengue fever," Nadia said. 

Jakarta's Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital's infection and tropical pediatrics specialist Mulya Karyanti said viral infection usually causes a high fever of 39-40 degrees Celsius.

However, symptoms of dengue fever are different to those of Covid-19.

"Dengue fever can cause spontaneous bleeding, such as nosebleed, red spots and bleeding gums. Only around 10 to 15 percent of patients develop a cough and, unlike Covid-19 patients, they don't experience respiratory problems," Mulya said.

Dengue fever symptoms also include eye pain, headache, continuous vomiting, increased red blood cells and a low platelet count (under 100,000 platelets).

The disease can infect people of all age groups, but most dengue fever patients in Indonesia this year have been teenagers.

"A lot of teens suffering from dengue fever come to the hospital already in a critical condition. Many of them are in hypovolemic shock or lacking fluid. They refuse drinks because it makes them vomit so they suffer from dehydration," Mulya said.

Double Epidemics

Nadia said trying to keep the dengue fever outbreak under control in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic has been very challenging. 

"It's been hard to press on with our regular prevention programs, many of which are usually done door-to-door, such as mosquito monitoring, awareness campaign and distribution of free insecticides," she said.

Many buildings such as hotels, schools and places of worship have also been left empty for a long time as people stay home during the lockdown, which meant building managers need to get rid of mosquito infestations before reopening them, Nadia said.

"People who stay home during the pandemic must also help prevent dengue fever by covering water tanks, cleaning them regularly and getting rid of containers around the house that mosquitos can use as nests. They should also put mosquito nets over their beds and use anti-mosquito lotion," she said.

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