Ask the health expert: Can you get dengue fever more than once?

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Q: Can you get dengue fever more than once?

A: Yes, you can. There are currently four dengue serotypes, DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4 co-circulating all year round in Singapore.

If you have been infected by one serotype, you can still be infected by one of the other three.

Everyone is at risk of being infected by dengue virus more than once, so you need to be protected.

Q: Is it more difficult to recover from a re-infection?

Recovery from dengue fever is dependent on a few factors, for example, the patient, the age, the presence of comorbidities, and if the patient is taking medication such as anti-platelet agents.

Patients generally do better with earlier recognition of the disease.

Once dengue fever sets in, it is essential for the patient to get adequate fluid hydration.

And contrary to popular belief, platelet transfusion does not help unless there is bleeding.

For a patient who has had dengue fever previously, recovery may be more challenging and may take a longer time.

If a person develops a severe form of dengue fever, he or she may need to be hospitalised.

Then, it becomes imperative to monitor the adequacy of hydration (a parameter in the full blood count called haematocrit), and the platelets level of the patient.

Should there be bleeding, platelet transfusion may be offered.

An unusual thing about dengue fever is that two-thirds of patients suffer from fatigue even though they have recovered from the disease. This lack of energy is more prevalent in older individuals.

We also have had patients who developed persistent numbness in the limbs after a dengue episode. Fortunately, it is quite rare.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, Infectious Disease Specialist, Mt Elizabeth Hospital

Graphic: The Straits Times