Any parent will tell you how difficult it is to see their child ill. But having a child sick with dengue is something every mother truly dreads. Dr. Rosario Capeding, mother, pediatrician, and head of the Dengue Study Group at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in the Philippines, explains why.
Watching her son suffer
It’s been over three years since Dr. Capeding’s eldest son contracted the disease. “He was a first-year medical student when he caught dengue,” she told us. “It wasn’t a classical case, although dengue can present as fever for a few days. He had a fever for several days, then it went down, and then it came back again.”
She saw his white blood cell count drop to 1,200 white blood cells (WBC) per microliter (mcL) – less than a quarter of the normal level of 5,000-10,000 WBCs/mcL. At the same time, his platelet count fell dramatically.
Knowing how important the WBC count is in protecting against disease and that a low platelet count significantly increases the risk of bleeding, it was a very traumatic time for her. “He was irritable and restless. There was always this uncertainty – will he bleed or go into shock? This was one of the worst nightmares for me,” she recalls.
Unpredictability raises anxiety levels
Dengue is one of nbso the most common causes of admissions among children and adolescents at the hospital where Dr. Capeding works as a pediatrician. Having firsthand experience, she empathizes with the anxious parents keeping vigil over their dengue-stricken offspring.
Over the years, she has seen how dengue’s unpredictability heightens parents’ fears. “Even though fatality rates for dengue are not really high compared with Ebola or other infectious diseases, it is very unpredictable and that makes it difficult for parents to deal with,” adds Dr. Capeding.
With no specific treatments available, only fluid management, doctors and parents can only hope that dengue chooses to remain mild. “With other diseases, once you have started the patients on treatment – on antibiotics for example – you can be hopeful they will soon be on the road to recovery,” conveys Dr. Capeding. “But with dengue, even as a doctor, one can’t predict the course of the illness. Will it be dengue hemorrhagic fever or the mild form of dengue?”
New vaccine brings hope
Due to the clinical trials of Sanofi Pasteur’s dengue vaccine candidate in the Philippines, Dr. Capeding (who was a lead investigator in the study) says that she’s hopeful. “The most important finding for me was that the vaccine candidate reduced the severity of dengue. As a mother and a clinician, that is what I am looking for. If you have a child with dengue that has been vaccinated with the dengue vaccine, you’re hopeful. You’re hopeful it will just be mild.”
About Dr. Rosario Capeding
Dr. Rosario Capeding is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and section head of infectious diseases at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in the Philippines, where dengue is one of the most common causes of admissions among children and adolescents. She also specializes in clinical microbiology at the National Public Health Institute and is presently a research consultant at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine where she heads up the Dengue Study Group in the research arm of the Philippines Department of Health.
Turn data into meaningful and actionable information using Dengue Track.
Click below to begin.