There’s a fever in town and papaya leaves are in trouble! This fever has no known cure or vaccine (typical of viral diseases), however studies done show that papaya leaves can be used to treat it. If a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about one to two weeks for symptoms to develop. Individuals that recover from this disease get lifetime immunity from the serotype that infected them however they can still be re-infected by another serotype.
Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, more scientifically the Aedes aegypti and Ae. Albopictus mosquitoes which are normally found along the coastline (Mombasa) and the lake region (Kisumu, plus other lake regions) in Kenya. These mosquitoes can also transmit yellow fever, zika virus, filariasis and chikungunya. Although the mortality rates are low, dengue fever causes symptoms that are quite uncomfortable. They include abdominal and joint pain, persistent vomiting, weakness, difficulty in breathing, bleeding gums or bleeding under the gums and of course fever.
Since this condition has no definite treatment people at the coastal town of Mombasa have resulted to using papaya leaves. Day in day out I get people knocking at our gate asking for papaya leaves which they can see over the fence. I had no problem at first giving out these leaves but after a month, the papaya trees are drying out and slowly withering.
Papaya has been used to cure various ailments since time immemorial including digestive disorders (which my mum insists on). The fruit and seed extracts have bactericidal activity and are also believed to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties among others. The fruit is also an aphrodisiac and can lower blood pressure.
I must admit that at first I didn’t understand the logic behind the papaya leaves, so I did a bit of research and came up with the following information.
Studies done on the effect of papaya extracts show its positive effect in treating the thrombocytopaenia (reduced platelets) that is associated with Dengue fever. Studies further show that the leaf extracts are capable of preventing hemolysis of red blood cells by improving membrane stability.
Thrombocytes (platelets) are small blood cells responsible to stop bleeding and since Dengue fever reduces the number of these cells, it is believed that this results in failure of blood to clot. Dengue fever also disturbs membrane stability of the blood vessels causing plasma to leak out. That’s where papaya leaves come in to stabilize the membrane and reduce the breakdown of red blood cells and platelets.
Since prevention is always better than cure and papaya trees are not enough to treat all of us, here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe.
Always sleep under a treated mosquito net.
Wear loose, long sleeved shirts and pants.
Use mosquito repellents
Always ensure there are no old cans, tins or tires with stagnant water in your compound.
And finally, if you get that mosquito squash it!
More research needs to be carried out on the effectiveness of papaya extracts in the treatment of Dengue fever.