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Confuse Dengue Fever for Malaria?

Posted by tatham on 25/5/2010 at 18:33

Hi All,

My 4 month traverse across SE Asia is fast approaching. One question I have after reading all the posts on Malaria and Dengue Fever is how you can actually tell you have Dengue Fever as opposed to Malaria.

For instance, if I am in deepest darkest Vietnam and I come down with a fever, headaches etc (ie: symptoms that could point to either Malaria or Dengue), how will I know what I have? For Dengue, you generally does up on paracetamol and rest, but if it's Malaria then you had better get to the closest quality medical clinic ASAP (which would mean curtailing the trip).

I don't want to rush off to a clinic each time I come down with fever or headaches / sweats & chills, so how do you self-diagnose yourself (which I know is impossible to get 100% correct)?

Thanks!

#1 tatham has been a member since 10/5/2010. Location: South Africa. Posts: 8

Posted by somtam2000 on 26/5/2010 at 08:40 admin

While I've not had either, friends who have had both note that one of the clear symptoms that accompanies dengue is terribly aching joints (why it is also referred to as "breakbone fever") -- this is not a characteristic of malaria.

As you say self diagnosis isn't an exact science, which is why there are clinics all over the place to assist in that regard.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
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Posted by wanderingcat on 26/5/2010 at 09:10

malaria - not a hard & fast rule, but fever tends to spike at regular intervals (usu 48h or 72h, duration depends on strain) that are in sync with the parasite's life cycle inside you. fever spikes whenever it reaches the stage where a new generation of parasites bursts forth into the bloodstream.

For Dengue, you generally does up on paracetamol and rest, but if it's Malaria then you had better get to the closest quality medical clinic ASAP (which would mean curtailing the trip).

dengue - can end up with dengue haemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome & require treatment like platelet transfusions. people still die of it even in countries with relatively advanced medical care (e.g. Singapore).

there are different strains of dengue, & unlike malaria, it's common to have 2-3 strains circulating in the same area. unlike other diseases where previous exposure helps build immunity, previous exposure to one strain of dengue results in a higher chance of death from other strains.

#3 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by yogakhaolak on 26/5/2010 at 10:08

If it's dengue your body will ache like mad. Everything will hurt. You may also experience migrains and everything, including light, will make the pain even stronger. You will also be extremely weak.
Never had Malaris so I can't really say. But I imagine if you are using internet then it may not be dengue. If it were you might be in too much pain to use it....

#4 yogakhaolak has been a member since 1/4/2010. Posts: 45

Posted by SBE on 26/5/2010 at 13:27

A friend of mine came down with a bad fever in the Togians and I mistakenly thought it was probably dengue because one of the main symptoms (apart from fever, chills, lack of appetite etc) was excruciating joint pains. Turned out that she had falciparum malaria.

I think a blood test is really the only way to be sure. There are malaria test kits available but they aren't always very accurate.

#5 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by SBE on 26/5/2010 at 13:40

PS There were a lot of Chikungunya cases on Ko Phayam this year ... seemed more common than dengue.

#6 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by tatham on 26/5/2010 at 16:17

That answers the question then I guess.

Thanks all!

I am going to take Doxy though and plan on taking a mozzie net (impregnated with permethrin) as well as long trousers and sleeves etc, so hopefully minimise my chances of getting mozzie borne diseases.

Seriously, too much reading about bugs and diseases before travel must be a bad thing! I read yesterday about the dangers of swimming in fresh water in SEA due to some creature that lays worms in your body that can get onto your liver and even spinal cord! I was horrified until I read that the worst regions got this are north and south Africa. As a South African, I have been swimming kn fresh water for years without issue...

#7 tatham has been a member since 10/5/2010. Location: South Africa. Posts: 8

Posted by jaclynt on 5/6/2010 at 12:15

Seriously, too much reading about bugs and diseases before travel must be a bad thing!

Honestly, I've been perusing through the forums these past couple of days. All this talk about dengue fever, malaria, encephalitis, traveller's diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, chills, bed bugs, floorboard bugs, ticks, and giant mutant aggressive mosquitoes is making me wonder why I didn't book another trip back to western Europe again ;)

#8 jaclynt has been a member since 27/5/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 11

Posted by tatham on 5/6/2010 at 16:08

Dude -- totally get where you are coming from. I have stopped reading these blogs myself. My sister and her husband did 6 months through SEA and did not take anti-malarials (whether that makes them idiots or not), and never had one problem the entire way! You may call them lucky, but they in fact are the norm.

I have had my last vaccine injection before my travels (rabies, although I am sure it's not actually necessary!), and now I am ready to go.

I cant wait! There is so much good stuff to experience out there that Western Europe would be like sitting in a McDonalds all Summer!

Have a great trip!

#9 tatham has been a member since 10/5/2010. Location: South Africa. Posts: 8

Posted by jaclynt on 6/6/2010 at 12:45

Hahaha! Albeit, a McDonald's with great wine, cheese, and fashion ;D

Same to you! Be happy and safe

#10 jaclynt has been a member since 27/5/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 11


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