Dengue Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More

Dengue is preventable and can easily tackled with the right know how.

5 min read
Dengue Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease caused from the virus of the family Flaviviridae or commonly known as the dengue virus. There are mainly four types of dengue viruses named from DENV-1 to DENV-4. They are all enveloped and single-stranded RNA viruses.

DENV-2 and DENV-4 are the dangerous types of viruses causing more complications. In India, DENV-1 AND DENV-2 are responsible for most dengue cases.

Causes of Dengue Fever

  • Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquito bites, mainly by the species- Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus which breed in clean and artificial water accumulations around the houses.

  • People living in areas with tropical or sub-tropical climates like Caribbean and South-East Asia are more prone to catching dengue.

  • Aedes aegypti is mainly found in the urban or suburban areas where there are man-made breeding spots like- household water containers, flower pots, tires, coconut shells, water coolers, etc.

  • These mosquitos typically fly around during the day, and are easily found in houses. They also cannot fly over long distances.

  • Aedes albopictus are the species which have been transported to North America or Europe by the Asian products like lucky bamboos and tires.

  • These species of mosquitoes can survive even in the freezing temperatures and that is why there have been rise in cases in the cooler regions too.

Types of Dengue Fever

  • Dengue fever is a self-limiting disease which means it doesn't spread from person to person and a patient can be safely taken care of at home by others.

  • In symptomatic dengue fever, the patient typically has symptoms like head ache, body ache, back ache and fever.

There are generally three stages or types of Dengue.

  • The patient suffering from type DF (Dengue Fever) has mild symptoms like joint pain, muscular pains, rashes and can be taken care of at home under the influence of normal medications and supportive care.

  • DHF (Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever) makes a person severely sick and might to lead to complications. This stage might affect the blood pressure levels, pulse rates and breathing of the patient.

  • DSS (Dengue Shock Syndrome) is the stage from where the recovery of the patient becomes difficult. The symptoms may include narrow pulse pressure, restlessness, chills, clammy skin and the patients are advised to get admitted in the hospital if they experience these symptoms.

  Dengue fever, which is caused primarily by a virus, gets transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  Dengue fever, which is caused primarily by a virus, gets transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/FIT )  

Symptoms of Dengue

  • Dengue fever is a severe viral fever and has an incubation period of 2-5 days of maximum of 6-10 days. Incubation period refers to the period when a person experiences the symptoms after the mosquito bite.

  • A patient may experience high grade fever up to 104 or 105 degree Fahrenheit accompanied by chills, severe body ache, head ache, back ache, throat pain, joint & muscular pain, loss of appetite and extreme weakness.

  • A patient may experience retro-orbital pain which means it is painful for person to move his eye balls from left to right or experiences pain on pressing the eyeballs gently.

  • Dengue fever is also known as bone-break fever. A person experiences extreme pain in his joints, muscles, head and back. It becomes so severe that it is equivalent to the pain of bone breakage.

  • Rashes is a predominant symptom in dengue patients which might lead to the redness of skin which disappears on pressing the skin gently and reappears thereafter. In severe cases, the redness may turn into bleeding pinhead dots.

  • In DHF, the severe symptoms come into the picture which include plasma leakage and fall in the number of platelets. Plasma leakage means leakage of blood from the vessels around the stomach, abdomen and lungs which might lead to abdominal pain and bloating.

  • There might be a drastic fall in the number of platelets due to the bleeding after the rashes become severe or due to the leaking blood vessels. The count may go below 1 lakh.


Diagnosing Dengue Fever

There are two simple tests that are readily available in a reputed hospital, nursing homes or other medical organisations. Few of the tests are:

  • NS-1 Ag is the test used to detect the virus up to 6 days after the mosquito has bitten the patient or we can say after the onset of the infection.

  • Dengue serology is a test that detects the virus after 5 days of illness. If the reports show presence of IgM, it means that the person has dengue fever and was infected a few days before.

    If the reports show presence IgG, it means that the patient has recently recovered from the dengue fever and the current fever is not due to dengue.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Treatment for dengue fever&nbsp;</p></div>

Treatment for dengue fever 

photo: iStock

Treatment for Dengue Fever

There is no specific vaccine or treatment for dengue fever, and doctors recommend supportive care, which includes:

  • Proper hydration and regular consumption of fluids like ORS, Electral, etc., if the patient is not diabetic.

  • Keeping a check on the urination, at least once in 6 hours of time period. It enables to keep the level of hydration in check

  • If a person suffers from fever due to dengue, he or she must only be given paracetamol. Other medications may have an adverse affect on the platelet count leading to a severe condition. Paracetamol should not be repeated in less than 6 hours.

  • Tepid sponging is another way to keep the fever in control. If the fever persists, doctors advise for sponge bath or shower for at least 15 minutes in normal water. In no case iced cold water should be used for the sponge bath.

  • In Earlier stages, the patients can be taken care of at their homes but if there are any warning signs like abdominal pain, bleeding from the areas of rashes, black stool, brown vomitus or difficulty in eating or breathing- the patient must be taken to the hospital without any further delay.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Use mosquito nets and repellants to avoid the spread of dengue fever</p></div>

Use mosquito nets and repellants to avoid the spread of dengue fever

(Photo: iStock)

How to Prevent Spread of Dengue Fever?

  • As mentioned before, dengue-causing female mosquitoes are domesticated and breed around unhygienic water accumulated areas. It is an individual as well as a community effort to keep the surroundings clean and tidy.

  • There are no vaccines as of now for Dengue but WHO has allowed Dengvaxia- tetravalent live vaccine in few countries like Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil and Philippines but there are still research and studies being undertaken to know about its overall side effects and benefits.

  • During the monsoon season which witnesses hike in number of dengue or malaria cases, people can take individual efforts for themselves like using mosquito repellants, mosquito nets, wearing full sleeve shirts and full pants to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

It is important that people are well aware of the causes and symptoms of dengue fever so that they can take preventive measures and differentiate a normal viral fever from the dengue fever.

If you contract dengue, do not panic. The viral fever usually resolves itself with supportive care.

One must take all the precautions as advised by the doctor and avoid any painkillers or medicines without consulting the doctor.

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