What Should I Know About Dengue Fever?

Reviewed on 12/18/2020
Dengue fever is an illness caused by the dengue virus.
Dengue fever is an illness caused by the dengue virus.

Dengue fever, also called breakbone fever, is an illness caused by the dengue virus. It is caused when a female Aedes mosquito carrying the virus bites a healthy person. This disease is mainly found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Causes of dengue:

  • Dengue is caused because of four viruses, namely DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, and DENV-4. The virus enters a mosquito when it bites an already infected person and the illness is spread when it bites a healthy person, and the virus spreads through the person’s bloodstream.
  • Once a person recovers, they are immune to the specific virus and not the other three types. The probability of developing severe dengue fever, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), increases if re-infected.

Symptoms of dengue:

  • Usually, symptoms of dengue feel like an uncomplicated fever and not easily identifiable in teens and children. Dengue causes a fever of 104°F along with at least two of these symptoms:

Types:

  • Mild dengue fever: Symptoms are seen after a week from the bite.
  • DHF: Symptoms are mild but can gradually worsen within a few days.
  • Dengue shock syndrome: This is a severe form of dengue and can even cause death.

Dengue treatment: There is no specific treatment or cure for dengue fever because dengue is a virus borne disease. Timely intervention can help, depending on how severe the disease is. Here are a few basic treatments for dengue fever:

  • Medication: Painkillers such as Tylenol or Paracetamol are generally prescribed to patients. Intravenous (IV) drips are sometimes supplemented in case of severe dehydration.
  • Stay hydrated: This is crucial because most of our bodily fluids are lost during vomiting and high fever. Continuous intake of fluids will make sure that the body does not easily dehydrate. It also prevents the onset of shock.
  • HygieneHygiene is of utmost importance, even more so when a person is not well. The patient can opt for a sponge bath if not a regular bath.

Dengue prevention: Researchers are still working on finding a specific cure for dengue fever. Dengue fever treatment involves the use of pain relievers with Acetaminophen. Additionally, the doctor will recommend you to drink plenty of fluids and take rest. The best way is prevention. Following are some actions you can take to keep yourself safe from the virus:

  • Lesser skin exposure: Try wearing long pants and shirts to cover your skin surfaces and reduce the risk of bites. Mosquitoes are highly active early in the morning or evening, so try avoiding venturing out in those times.
  • Mosquito repellent: A repellent with at least 10% concentration of diethyltoluamide (DEET) is beneficial. A higher concentration is needed for longer exposures. You can apply the ointment daily to keep mosquitoes away.
  • Personal hygiene: When infected with any virus, patients are extra sensitive to other illnesses. Use a hand sanitizer or hand wash, which will keep germs at bay. 

Disinfect stagnant water: The Aedes mosquito breeds in clean and stagnant water. Keep water always covered and use a proper disinfectant if necessary. Turn over any vessels that can accumulate water and scrub the surfaces thoroughly to reduce the risk of a breeding ground for the mosquitoes.

When does dengue fever become life-threatening?

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a complication of dengue fever that affects children under 10 years of age or older adults. DHF starts abruptly with continuous high fever and headache. Often, there are associated with respiratory and intestinal symptoms, such as sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Shock occurs after two to six days if the patient remains untreated, and symptoms progress to a sudden collapse, cool and clammy extremities, a weak pulse, and blueness around the mouth. In DHF, there is bleeding with easy bruising, red or purple blood spots on the skin, spitting up blood, blood in the stools, bleeding gums, and nose bleeding. Rarely, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) resulting in severe and profound hypotension (low blood pressure), heart failure, and damage to the peripheral nerves are seen. The latter persists for days to weeks after recovery with persistent numbness of the limbs.

Patients with DHF must be monitored closely for the first few days because shock may occur or recur unexpectedly. The mortality rate with DHF is significant. With proper treatment, the World Health Organization estimates a 2.5% mortality rate. However, without proper treatment, the mortality rate increases to 20%. Most deaths occur in children and in the elderly. Infants under the age of one year are especially at risk.

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References
Government of Singapore. What Should You Do When You Have Dengue? September 2, 2020. https://www.gov.sg/article/what-should-you-do-when-you-have-dengue

Mayoclinic. Dengue Fever. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20353078

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