Dengue is a mosquito-borne illness that is common in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, with the common dengue causing fever and flu-like symptoms. However, a more severe form of dengue can result in hemorrhage, internal bleeding, and possible fatality.
All across the globe, there are millions of cases of dengue each year, with tropical regions of the Indian sub-continent, South East Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America showing the highest incidence of the disease. WHO statistics indicate that the incidence of Dengue has gone up 10 times in the last 20 years, from less than half a million cases reported worldwide to over 5 million cases in 2019. And the same WHO report indicates that close to 3.9 billion people today remain in the risk of developing dengue – which is almost half the population of the world.
Thus, it is imperative to understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment modalities for dengue – which can help each one of us be better prepared to prevent the disease, or in the unfortunate event of acquiring the disease, be better equipped to treat it at an early stage.
Causes of Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is transmitted from one individual to another by mosquito bites of the infected female mosquitoes. The primarily vector of transmission is the Aedes aegypti mosquito. And though the primary mode of transmission is from mosquitoes to humans, maternal transmission from a pregnant mother to the child is also a possibility. However, the possibility of this remains low and the dengue infection of the mother ought to occur at a specific time during the course of the pregnancy. Dengue infection during pregnancy for the mother, and the subsequent transmission to the baby can result in pre-term births, low birth weight, fetal distress, amongst other complications.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
As indicated above the common symptoms associated with mild dengue fever would be similar to common fever and flu. While more severe forms will cause hemorrhagic symptoms as well. People infected with mild dengue symptoms are likely to get better within 1-2 weeks of infection with symptoms beginning to appear from 4-10 days of the infection.
- High Fever
- Severe Headache
- Muscle & Joint Pains
- Eye Pain
More severe forms of Dengue are evidenced in those who have had a second infection of dengue, and these begin to show following the fever. The severe dengue symptoms include:
- Acute Abdominal Pain
- Persistent Nausea
- Bleeding of the Gums & Nose
- Excessive Fatigue
- Blood in Vomit or Stools
- Excessive Thirst
Anyone with the above severe symptoms of dengue must seek immediate medical care to avoid further complications.
If you suspect you have dengue or are experiencing symptoms, consult a General Physician for a proper diagnosis and guidance on appropriate care.
Dengue is primarily transmitted through the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes aegypti species. These mosquitoes become infected when they feed on the blood of a dengue-infected person and can then transmit the virus to other individuals through their bites. Human-to-human transmission does not occur, and the virus cannot be directly passed from one person to another.
Mosquito Control: The most effective way to prevent dengue is to reduce mosquito breeding and exposure. This can be achieved through eliminating standing water, using mosquito repellents, and installing window and door screens.
Vector Control: Community-based efforts to control mosquito populations, such as insecticide spraying and larval control, are essential.
Protective Clothing: Wearing long sleeves, pants, and mosquito nets can reduce the risk of mosquito bites.
Vaccination: In some regions, a dengue vaccine has been developed, and vaccination programs may help reduce the risk for certain individuals.
Risk Factors of Dengue
Geographical Location: People in regions with a high prevalence of Aedes mosquitoes are at increased risk.
Age: Children are at higher risk of severe dengue, and repeated infections can increase the severity of the disease.
Immune Status: Individuals with a compromised immune system may be more susceptible to severe dengue.
Prior Infection: If a person has had a previous dengue infection, they are at increased risk of severe dengue if they become infected again with a different dengue virus serotype.
Dengue Treatment Options
Treatment for dengue is primarily focused on treatment of the symptoms. For mild cases of dengue treatment can be at home while severe cases of the disease might require hospitalization based on the severity of the symptoms.
Here are some key components of treatment for dengue:
1. Stay Hydrated: Dengue can cause dehydration due to high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Rehydration is crucial. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), and clear soups. In severe cases, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.
2. Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body recover from the infection.
3. Monitoring: Keep a close watch on your symptoms. If they worsen or if you develop severe dengue symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Warning signs of severe dengue include severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, and restlessness.
4. Medical Care: If you experience severe dengue or dengue hemorrhagic fever, you may require hospitalization. In severe cases, you may need blood transfusions or other medical interventions to manage complications like severe bleeding or low platelet counts.
5. Mosquito Control: Prevent further mosquito bites to avoid the spread of dengue. Use mosquito nets, repellents, and wear long-sleeved clothing.
Dengue is a significant global health concern with increasing incidence in many parts of the world. Understanding its transmission, prevention, risk factors, and treatment is crucial for reducing its impact. The most effective approach is prevention through mosquito control measures, public education, and, in some cases, vaccination. While treatment is primarily supportive, early diagnosis and proper medical care can significantly reduce mortality and the severity of the disease. Public health efforts, community engagement, and international cooperation are vital to combating the spread of dengue and reducing its burden on affected populations.