Grandfather felt like his body was ‘collapsing’ due to ‘horrific’ infection

Dengue Fever: Doctor outlines signs and symptoms of infection

A keen traveller has shared details of his “horrific” experience with dengue fever in the hopes of alerting others to the dangers.

Grandfather-of-one Ken Burnett initially wasn’t too concerned when he noticed he had been bitten a few times while on holiday in the Maldives.

The 72-year-old had not heard of any mosquito-borne viruses in the area, and had therefore not taken any precautionary measures.

Ken, from Huntingfield in Suffolk, said: “I had three bites on my leg, just above the knee. They were quite close together and fairly big – leaving quite a noticeable mark on my skin.

“I’d heard about it [dengue fever] and knew how serious it could be, but never fully appreciated what it would be like to get it or thought I’d be someone who would ever catch it.”

However, not long after landing back home he became unwell.

“I didn’t feel 100 percent right but returned to work anyway, thinking it might just be because of the long journey home,” he said.

By the end of the day, Ken had rapidly deteriorated.

He explained: “It’s quite horrific – my skin started to change colour, I was in a considerable amount of pain – my bones felt like they were being crushed and I later learned dengue is known as ‘break bone fever’.

“I felt like I was on fire – my temperature had shot up so much.”

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), dengue fever is the fastest-spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world.

In 2019 WHO listed it as one of the top ten threats to global health.

It is passed to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes most commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical climates – many of which are popular holiday destinations.

Ken felt so ill his wife took him to the hospital, where he was seen by a tropical medicine specialist who told him that he had dengue.

The former lecturer and consultant said: “I couldn’t believe it when they told me there was nothing they could do for me, so I had no other option but to go home to bed, rest and hopefully make a speedy recovery at home.

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“It’s funny how much your body can change. For the next 10 days I couldn’t eat anything, nor concentrate.

“You feel like your body is collapsing, it’s extremely painful and I had absolutely no energy – I didn’t move from my bed the whole time other than to use the bathroom.”

After 10 days in bed, Ken finally began to recover. He said, “My fever passed, the brain fog lifted and my skin went back to normal, so I started to feel more like myself again.”

The dad-of-two added: “Contracting dengue hasn’t left any lasting damage, but I do find myself taking more steps to look after my health now before I travel abroad.

“I won’t step on a plane without researching where I’m going first, plus I will always have a full bottle of mosquito repellent packed in my suitcase just in case.”

Dengue fever doesn’t always present with symptoms, however, the most common signs are:

  • A high temperature
  • A severe headache
  • Pain behind your eyes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Swollen glands
  • A blotchy rash made up of flat or slightly raised spots – this can affect large areas of your body.

If you experience these symptoms after travelling to a country where dengue is found the NHS recommends booking an urgent GP appointment or calling 111.

In severe cases it can cause:

  • Severe tummy pain
  • Repeatedly being sick
  • Fast breathing
  • Bleeding gums or nose
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Being unable to relax (restlessness)
  • Blood in your vomit or poo.

If you experience any of these signs after travelling you should call 999 or go to A&E.

To check whether a country you are travelling to is a dengue epistemic area you can use Takeda’s new Explore Uninterrupted interactive map online.

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