Overview of Dengue Fever
Dengue (pronounced as DENG-gay) Fever is a disease caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitos known as Aedes Aegypti.
The primary form, Classical Dengue Fever, is mild and characterised by sudden high fever, skin rash and severe body pain. The secondary forms of this disease are life threatening and are called Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock syndrome (DSS).
Dengue can affect anyone but tends to be more severe in people with weak immune system. Deaths are more in children during Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) outbreak. It is very common after rainy season.
Causes of Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is spreads when the mosquitoes carrying dengue virus bites a person. The virus cannot spread from person to person through casual contact. If a mosquito bites a person having dengue fever, the mosquito becomes infected with the virus and can pass it to other people. So, the people infected with dengue should be protected from mosquito bites.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
The common symptoms of the primary form of Dengue Fever (DF) are mild and include:
- Sudden high fever
- Skin rash
- Body pain - muscle and joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
During the first few days the symptoms of the secondary form, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) resemble Classical Dengue Fever. But more serious symptoms may occur later:
- Bleeding from the gum and nose
- Vomiting blood
- Stomach pain
- Black stools
Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) is the severe and life threatening form of DHF. It shows all the above symptoms plus the evidence of circulatory failure manifested by rapid and weak pulse, and narrow pulse pressure.
Diagnosis of Dengue Fever
A probable diagnosis is based on occurrence of fever along with some of the following symptoms.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Generalized pain
The diagnosis also takes into account whether the suspected person lives in endemic (high prevalence) area.
Microscopic examination: This is done in order to detect dengue. The earliest change detectable is a low white blood cell count which may then be followed by low platelets and metabolic acidosis.
Rapid diagnostic test: It is an excellent method for specifically detecting anti-dengue IgG and IgM antibodies. The test can detect all four serotypes of dengue.
Treatment of Dengue Fever
There is no specific medication for treatment of a dengue infection. Persons suspected of dengue can use analgesics (pain relievers) and avoid those containing aspirin. They should take plenty of fluids, rest and consult a physician at the earliest possible. If condition does not improve after 3-5 days, then one should seek further medical advice.
Several days after onset other symptoms may include fever, bleeding under the skin, red spots on the legs, and bleeding into the intestines. A marked fall in blood pressure (shock) occurs in very severe cases.
Prevention from Dengue Fever
There is no vaccine to prevent dengue yet. The best way to prevent getting the disease is to avoid being bitten by mosquito. Some of the preventive measures are as follows:
To protect yourself:
- Stay away from heavily populated residential areas, if possible.
- Use mosquito repellents, even indoors.
- When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
- When indoors, use air conditioning if available.
- Make sure window and door screens are secure and free of holes. If sleeping areas are not screened or air conditioned, use mosquito nets.
- If you have symptoms of dengue, speak to your doctor.
To reduce the mosquito population:
Mosquitoes which spread dengue live and breed in stagnant water in and around house.
- Drain out the water from desert / window air coolers (when not in use), tanks, barrels, drums, buckets etc.
- Remove all objects containing water (e.g. plant saucers, etc.) from the house.
- All stored water containers should be kept covered all times.
- Collect and destroy discarded containers in which water collect, e.g. bottles, plastic bags, tins, tyres etc.