Contributed by – Dr. Snehal Singh
Dengue fever is capable of scaring the life out of anybody and India has become a major hub for this dreadful disease. This viral illness is spread by mosquitoes and can take a deadly turn at times. Dengue fever is identified with high temperatures, continued fever and rash. Proper treatment is possible if detected in time as the severity of the infection varies. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dengue, to seek medical advice and get the right investigations done on time. Also, knowing the causes and ways of dengue fever prevention can help control the spread of this viral infection.
What Are The Causes Of Dengue Fever?
Dengue fever is an infection caused by dengue viruses, mosquitoes act as carriers of this lethal disease. The female mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus play a vital role in the transmission of dengue infection. The fever or the infection is transmitted through the mosquito bite. The dengue virus known as DENV belongs to the family of flaviviridae, genus flavivirus.
Who Is At Risk Of Dengue Fever?
Dengue fever can affect anyone, however, people with low immunity are always at a greater risk. People traveling to tropical regions, where mosquito-borne infections and exposure to dengue virus is high are also at an increased risk. It is believed that people who have had a previous dengue infection may develop immunity towards that particular subtype of the virus. But, reoccurrence can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dengue Fever?
The signs and symptoms of dengue may vary based on the severity of the infection. The incubation period (the time between the mosquito bite and beginning of symptoms) is generally 5 to 8 days but can be more in some cases. The common symptoms of mild dengue infection often include:
- Severe headache and pain behind the eyes
- Joint and muscle pain
- High fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body rash
These symptoms of mild dengue usually last for up to 7 days and mostly resolve on its own without any complications. However, in the case of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) which is a much severe form, the symptoms may worsen and also lead to internal bleeding. Some of the symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever include:
- Small red spots or petechiae on the skin
- Bleeding gums or nose
- Vomiting with blood
- Weak pulse
- Very low blood pressure with the possibility of shock and sudden death if treatment is not received in time
Blood tests are used to detect the platelet count and is repeated during the entire dengue treatment to assess the progress.
How Is Dengue Fever Diagnosed?
The dengue diagnosis begins initially with the symptoms and clinical examination. A confirmed diagnosis is made using a dengue blood test, NS1 antigen which detects the presence of dengue virus. However, if the test is done immediately following a dengue infection or 9 to 10 days after, the result may not be positive.
Hence, it is best to follow medical advice about the need and time to perform the dengue antigen test. Ideally, it is done when fever and other symptoms do not subside even after 4 to 5 days which raises a strong suspicion of dengue.
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How Is Dengue Fever Treated?
Treatment of dengue must include plenty of rest and a proper nutritious diet. Adequate intake of fluids or intravenous fluids, if necessary can help prevent or manage dehydration. Some cases may be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or fever medicines. As the severity of dengue varies, the treatment also varies and is best decided by the treating doctor. A timely diagnosis of dengue with appropriate blood tests ensures proper treatment and better recovery. The lymphocyte and platelet count reduces during dengue and a proper diet plays an important role in the recovery:
- Diet should be rich in proteins like milk, eggs and dairy
- Fruits like kiwi, papaya, guava and citrus fruits help build immunity and provide adequate nutrition
- Lemon juice and coconut water can make up for the water and electrolyte loss due to fever
- Papaya leaves, basil and fenugreek leaves are also used as home remedies to manage dengue fever
Can Dengue Be Prevented?
Dengue prevention is possible with effective use of vaccines but this field still needs more research. However, the best way to prevent dengue fever is by controlling mosquito breeding and protecting against mosquito bites. People traveling to high-risk areas or tropical regions need to be more careful about protecting against mosquito bites.
Here are some tips for dengue prevention:
- Avoid waterlogging in pots, containers, water coolers, drains and animal dishes for long. Keep them covered and clean them regularly to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes
- Keep your surroundings clean and ensure to spray mosquito repellents regularly
- Make sure the house is mosquito-free and use air-conditioner, if possible
- Wear protective clothing, long-sleeved clothes with shoes and socks
- Make sure to use mosquito repellents
- Use mosquito nets at home
Dengue can be a serious infection, if not detected in time. So, seek timely medical opinion and get a dengue test, as advised, for a confirmed diagnosis. Proper treatment can prevent complications, so watch out for dengue signs and symptoms.
Stay alert, stay healthy.
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