When the couple returned to Bangkok, his fever was rising and by midnight it was 104 degrees. Sensing danger, his wife brought him immediately to a nearby hospital. The attending doctor, who happened to be a Filipino, told him, “If you had arrived an hour later, you would have been dead by now.”
Mar was a victim of dengue fever, “a major international public health concern,” according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO). Found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world, predominantly in urban and semi-urban areas, dengue fever is a severe, flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults, but seldom causes death.
It is the virulent form – the dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) – that is lethal to human beings. DHF was first recognized in the 1950s during the dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand. Today, DHF has become a leading cause of hospitalization (about 500,000 cases each year) and death (most of the victims are children) in Asia.
The UN health agency classifies four distinct, but closely-related, viruses that cause dengue. Recovery from infection by one provides lifelong immunity against that virus but confers only partial and transient protection against subsequent infection by three others. There is good evidence that sequential infection increases the risk of more serious disease resulting in DHF.
Symptoms of dengue fever vary according to the age of the patient. Infants and young children may have a fever with rash. Older children and adults may have either a mild fever then followed by severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, and rash.
The deadly DHF is characterized by high fever, hemorrhage, and — in severe cases — circulatory failure. The illness commonly begins with a sudden rise in temperature accompanied by facial flush and other symptoms of dengue fever. The fever usually continues for two to seven days. The small red or purple blisters under the skin, bleeding in the nose or gums, black stools, or easy bruising are all possible signs of hemorrhage.
“In moderate DHF cases, all signs and symptoms abate after the fever subsides,” the WHO explains. “In severe cases, the patient’s condition may suddenly deteriorate after a few days of fever; the temperature drops, followed by signs of circulatory failure, and the patient may rapidly go into a critical state of shock and die within 12-24 hours, or quickly recover following appropriate volume replacement therapy.”
Until now, dengue vaccine is still not available. Recently, however, attenuated candidate vaccine viruses have been developed, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Efficacy trials in human volunteers have yet to be initiated. Research is also being conducted to develop second-generation recombinant vaccine viruses. “Therefore, an effective dengue vaccine for public use will not be available for 5 to 10 years,” the CDC states.
But there is a glimmer of hope. “There is hope that the dengue scourge will be obliterated,” said an e-mail I received recently. Thanks to sweet potato, or more popularly known as camote.
The e-mail sender wrote: “I was in a meeting in Manila recently with other officials. While waiting for my flight back to Cebu, I happened to talk with friends. The conversation eventually turned to dengue. Some of their statements shocked me. I called up the persons concerned and they all have confirmed.”
• Computer technician Wenceslao Salesale Jr., 27, was downed by dengue. His platelet count plunged from 180 to 80. He was rushed by ambulance from Novaliches to Manila. Inside the ambulance, a relative, acting upon the advice of a missionary priest, made him drink soup made from camote tops. The following day, his platelet count became normal.
• Dengue attacked the 7-year-old daughter of Engineers Mar and Lita Budlongan of Caloocan City. Her platelet count read 80. The same treatment was used. The following day, she was back to normal.
• The 15-year-old daughter of businessman Nepomuceno Salaga of Sampaloc, Manila had a dangerous platelet count of 80 due to dengue. The same treatment was followed. The following day she was back in school.
“I asked a doctor of medicine about herbal cures and he said that many, if not most, medicines come from plants,” the e-mail sender noted, adding that “We need not do research deep in the rainforests of the Amazon or venture into the ocean depths in search of the elusive cure for dengue. It is right there in our own backyard.”
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, shares this information about sweet potato: “In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato.”
What’s in a sweet potato, anyway? “Sweet potato tops are excellent sources of antioxidative compounds, mainly polyphenolics, which may protect the human body from oxidative stress that is associated with many diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases,” Wikipedia informs. “Sweet potato greens have the highest content of total polyphenolics among other commercial vegetables studied.”
Even more: “Sweet potatoes contain protein, dietary fiber, lipid, and essential minerals and nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, aluminum and boron. Sweet potatoes are also important sources of vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid.”
According to the e-mail sender, to save her daughter from the complications of dengue, Mr. Salaga bought five sheaves (bigkis) of camote cuttings at P5 per sheaf. Each sheaf consists of about 12 cuttings (measured about one foot).
Here’s how to prepare the drink: “Camote tops are boiled in water to extract the juice. The boiling lasts for about five minutes. A little salt is used to give flavor to it. The patient is made to drink slowly and gradually. The body’s immunity system is thus revived, making dengue helpless against the body’s natural defenses. Camote enables the body to heal itself.”
Author’s note: I cannot vouch for the information stated in this article about camote as a treatment against dengue fever. I have written this basically for information purpose only. With deadly disease like dengue fever, I suggest that you should see a doctor immediately. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.