Dengue fever is a disease contracted from mosquitoes. There are 4 main viruses that cause this disease and all are spread by specific types of mosquito. Dengue fever can range from mild to severe and the mild dengue fever is accompanied by symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, fever and rashes. Severe dengue fever, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, leads to excessive bleeding shock and sometimes death. This disease is common in the tropics and sub-tropics. There are millions of dengue fever cases reported every year and these often happen in western Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia and most recently in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Causes of Dengue Fever
There are 4 Dengue viruses (DENV) known to cause Dengue fever, and these are spread by a mosquito species known as Aedes aegypti mosquito with rare cases caused by Aedes albopictus mosquito. Aedes aegypti is an African mosquito species which thrives in areas with human population. When a mosquito bites someone who is already infected, it will carry the virus, and then spreads it when it bites others.
If you have previously suffered from this fever, it’s possible to get re-infected and this is because there are different viruses responsible for the disease. Those who contract the disease a second time have a higher risk of developing dengue hemorrhagic. This is an unusual occurrence. Under normal circumstances, the body would be in a better position to carry antibodies that fight the virus easily in the second time.
Watch the video to know how dengue virus gets into the body and how it causes the infection:
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
In many cases, the symptoms of Dengue fever occur 4-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms include pain in the muscles, bones and joints, headaches, fever of up to 41ºC (106ºF). You could also experience nausea, vomiting, rashes, minor nose and gum bleeding.
Most people will recover from these symptoms in a week, but in some instances, the symptoms may worsen and become deadly. There are cases of the blood vessels becoming damaged, leading to leaks or clot formation in the bloodstream. This could bring about persistent vomiting, severe pain in the abdominal area as well as heart, liver and lung problems. Severe bleeding mostly originates from mouth and nose and bruises or small spots of blood may appear under the skin. Internal bleeding also may bring about black vomit and stools.
When to See a Doctor
If your notice any of the above signs and symptoms after you have visited a high risk dengue fever area, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Treatment of Dengue Fever
Dengue fever has no specific cure and treatment will depend on the severity of the disease.
Patients suffering from mild forms of the disease are treated with:
- Painkillers. Painkillers are prescribed to relieve pain and fever. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin are not advised as they may increase the likelihood of developing internal bleeding. Instead, paracetamol is recommended as an alternative.
- Hydration. Hydration is used as treatment since vomiting and high fever could easily lead to dehydration. The doctor may offer the patient rehydration salts which work to replace not just lost fluids, but minerals as well. Lots of clean water is recommended.
Those suffering from severe dengue fever may be treated in the following ways:
- Hospitalization. Severe forms of dengue require hospitalization to monitor blood pressure, fluid levels and other complications which occur with worsening symptoms. Hospitalization could save a life especially where hemorrhagic fever is diagnosed.
- Intravenous fluid supplementation (IV drip). The patient may be given fluids using an IV drip when they are unable to orally ingest.
- Blood transfusion. Blood transfusion is recommended when patients suffer from severe dehydration.
Preventions of Dengue Fever
1. Lessen the Chances that Mosquito Bites You.
You can reduce your likelihood of being bitten by a mosquito if you:
- Wear protective clothes. The less skin you have exposed, the lower your chances of being bitten by a mosquito. You are advised to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and shoes. You can protect yourself further when you tuck in your pants into your socks and wear a hat too.
- Use mosquito traps and nets. Mosquito nets protect mosquitoes from biting your body when sleep. However, a mosquito could still bite you if your skin is next to the net and this is why it’s important to sleep under a treated net. The insecticide used to treat the net may even kill the mosquito. Mosquito traps can also be an effective way to reduce the mosquito up to you since many mosquitos have been attracted by the light and killed.
2. Reduce Time Outside
Avoid staying outdoors especially at dawn, dusk and in the early evening as well. This is when mosquitoes are out and hang around.
3. Use Mosquito Repellent
Apply mosquito repellant on your skin, clothes and net. For skin, look for a mosquito repellant with a concentration of at least 10% DEET or even more for longer protection. Do not use DEET on children. For your gear and net, Permethrin is a suitable repellant. Permethrin can be used on your shoes, clothing, mosquito net and camping gear.
4. Avoid Body Odor
Body odor which is a combination of sweat and bacterial colonies has a sweet scent for mosquitoes. You can control the odor produced by sweat and bacteria with proper hygiene. Fragrances, such as perfumes also attract mosquitoes, avoid them.
5. Reduce Mosquito Breeding Habitat
Mosquitoes breed where there is stagnant water and the Aedes mosquito in particular breeds mainly in clean water. Keep your surroundings free of both clean and dirty stagnant water.