By Ivett de la Mercedes
HAVANA TIMES – In Cuba, dengue fever spreads throughout the country. Since September, the largest number of cases due to infestation of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito has been recorded in Havana. Eneida de la Cruz Naranjo contracted the virus, was hospitalized, and returned to her home after recovering.
HT: The symptoms from dengue can confuse the patient. What were yours?
Eneida de la Cruz: I started with muscle aches. That week I was touring the markets, looking for fruits and root vegetables. In my house, if root vegetables or plantains and beans are not served at meals, the men act as if they hadn’t eaten. So, at first I attributed the pain in my arms to the weight of the bags. Then I started with stomach aches and diarrhea, I thought that something had not set well with me, but that day I had only eaten malanga, which is easy for digestion.
That night I had a fever. Many times, we women must continue in our chores no matter how we feel, and if we say that we feel bad we are complaining and nobody tolerates complainers, at least that’s how it has always been in my family. The next day, vomiting joined the fever and feeling weak, but even so, I didn’t want to call my husband or my children, because in their case, losing a day’s work is losing the monthly salary incentive. So, I went alone to the health clinic. While waiting to be seen, a tremendous itching began, so I had no doubts, I had dengue.
HT: What happened during your stay at the health clinic?
EC: Many people assume that everyone has a cell phone in Cuba, but it is not true. There was a neighbor, who was also doing the test, and fortunately it was negative, I asked her to tell my husband at his work.
The doctor on call scolded me for not being attentive to the symptoms and having delayed going to the clinic. He explained that the rush in these cases is essential, as many people have complications, and some have even lost their lives. I felt a little guilty, I really didn’t have time to think about dengue. Then he sent me for urgent tests.
When the result came, I already knew, from the nurse’s face, that I had low platelets and that was where my ordeal began. Other cases of dengue were detected in the polyclinic, and a bus took us to take us to the Miguel Enriquez hospital, in the October 10 municipality.
HT: When you knew you were going to be hospitalized, what was the first thing you thought?
EC: The reality is that I have a habit of thinking of others first. I mean my children and my husband. What would happen to them. I was tormented by the idea that they came home tired from work and won’t find food made, or hot water for bathing, much less the sip of coffee. I think that the anguish caused by that situation made me not think about the possible seriousness.
HT: When you arrived at the hospital, what was the impression? Were there many sick people?
EC: At that time I had no head at all, I still had a fever and a lot of discomfort, but the comment was that there were four halls full of cases of Dengue and Zika. I can tell you that before I was assigned a bed they repeated the tests, and of course they tested positive. The conditions of the room I was in were critical, like the general situation the country currently faces.
HT: Was your family able to see you at the hospital? I imagine they took you the essential in these situations?
EC: My husband brought me a bucket for bathing, clothes and food, but they didn’t let him pass, and I preferred it that way. I was afraid of him being ill, although in reality one can be bitten by the mosquito anywhere. He is a very ingenious man and he managed to get a nurse to hand things over to me. From that day on, whenever that nurse worked, I got food and water.
HT: They say dengue leaves sequels. Did you have any left?
EC: I’ve always been clean and organized, but since then I take extreme hygiene measures and I don’t stop spraying, that’s my sequel. Many people do not want to fumigate their home, I stopped doing it myself many times, it bothered me to interrupt my work, for a fumigation that, in my opinion, does not solve anything, when there is a garbage dump on the corner of my house, the street is pot holed, and now that it rains so often the water is stagnant for days.
I think dengue is a matter of luck. There are many legends regarding this issue. There are those who say that if you take vitamins the mosquito doesn’t bite you. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but just in case, since then, in my house, we managed to buy vitamins that people bring from abroad, because in Cuba there are none, although they are not cheap.
HT: Do you think the government media has done an effective job regarding this vector and its effect on human health?
EC: There are many spots on television about it, but the reality is that you can maintain hygiene in your home, but outside it is very bad. There’s the people who take their pets to do their necessities on the sidewalks, the garbage out of the containers, those who throw waste from their balconies, including eggshells, those who have patios full of different things that gather water, the problem seems insurmountable.
I believe that the first thing to achieve is a collective awareness. For one reason or another people don’t identify collective hygiene in public spaces with personal care. I think it’s something social. In addition, with so much fumigation one wonders if the product of the bazookas is ideal. My son says he doesn’t understand how it is possible that an insecticide that kills mosquitoes and their larvae has not been invented, when science is so advanced.
A vaccine would be a dream; people also ask if humankind has faced many challenges how come it hasn’t yet been able to exterminate a simple mosquito. Although it is very possible that fumigation affects other species. The garden around my house was always full of butterflies and crickets and now you don’t see any. However, mosquitoes, for some strange reason, seem to have cockroach genes.