The Dengue-Like Illness

DiliTimor Leste

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I’ve been out of work for a week with a ‘dengue-like’ illness. Aching, headachy, lethargic. Funny little rash on my back. Clammy and shaky whenever I try to do anything. I’m finally starting to feel a bit better today and will hopefully get back to the office tomorrow. It’s been terrible timing… bang on a month into my role, just as I was getting my head around everything and getting set to try to really knuckle down on some work and just a week and a bit out from presidential elections and a major celebration that will be happening for my organisation.

I say ‘dengue-like’ illness, because despite dengue being the disease of the season here in Dili and presenting in really large numbers, it wouldn’t show up in my blood tests. The doctor is still convinced that it could have been a mild case of dengue, or alternatively some ‘mystery virus’, of which I’m sure there are also abundant numbers in Timor.

It’s been a good test case of figuring out the medical services here I guess, and communicating with my insurance company, which thankfully seems very good, thorough and responsive.

Medical care here in Dili is a big issue… there is thankfully a fantastic (and very busy) Australian doctor here, but on the weekends the only option is the city hospital, which the insurance company doesn’t rate as a good option. There’s an Indonesian-owned clinic for getting blood tested, but they are closed on Sundays.

There are also Cuban doctors here as well, who are here on loan while young Timorese get trained in medical schools in Cuba.

For locals without financial resources, especially those in the districts, the situation is really a lot worse, so one should never complain too much as an expat. Like in this story, where the health workers gave a kid with dengue symptoms a aspirin…. an absolute no-no if dengue is suspected, because aspirin further thins the blood and can increase risk of hemorrhage.

Even though Darwin is close (1 hour flight), it starts to feel like a long way away when there is a medical issue. The flights are not particularly frequent… in Jakarta, there was definitely more medical services available (though the quality was questionable) and there were plenty of flights to Singapore every day if something was getting serious.

I’ve been getting frustrated by not being able to find a car here to purchase so I can get around more easily. I was considering getting a scooter to get around Dili, but it’s the medical care in the case of an accident that is probably my biggest concern with that.

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