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Understanding Dengue Fever: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Team AckoOct 18, 2022

Dengue Fever is a disease caused by a virus that is transmitted by the bite of a female mosquito, Aedes aegypti. It is the most widespread mosquito-borne viral disease throughout the world. Generally, a spurt in Dengue cases is seen during and after the monsoon season. This disease is mostly prevalent in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Western Pacific islands. In addition to these regions, local outbreaks in the southern part of the United States of America and Europe have been recorded in recent times.

Dengue Fever

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Ways by which Dengue gets transmitted

Here’s how Dengue is transmitted.

  • Mosquito bites: The bite of a virus-infected female mosquito of the species Aedes aegypti and to a certain extent, Aedes albopictus is the main cause of Dengue Fever.

  • Mother to offspring: Transmission of the disease can also take place during pregnancy from a mother to the baby or at the time of childbirth.

  • Other factors: In rare cases, the disease can be transmitted via organ donation, transfusions, or blood products.

Causes of Dengue Fever

There are four types of viruses that can cause Dengue. The two most common types of mosquitoes responsible for the spread of Dengue are commonly found near human dwellings. 

Usually, Dengue spreads in the following way.

  • A mosquito bites a Dengue-infected human.

  • The virus enters the mosquito who bit the human.

  • The infected mosquito bites other humans and infects them.

After gaining recovery from the Dengue Fever, you will have developed long-term immunity against the virus that caused the infection in the first place. However, you are not completely safe from the other three Dengue virus types and may get re-infected again. Under such an eventuality, there are high chances of developing severe Dengue, characterised by internal bleeding, shock, organ failure, and even death.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

The symptoms of Dengue may vary from no symptoms at all to very mild symptoms. In certain cases, flu-like symptoms are evident such as:

  • High fever (up to 104F)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Severe headache

  • Pain behind the eyes

  • Severe muscle, bone, or joint pain (also called “breakbone” fever)

  • Rash 

  • Swollen glands

The above symptoms typically last for about 2-7 days.

If you have a severe case of Dengue Fever, you may have symptoms which include the following:

  • Drop in the number of platelets

  • Bleeding gums or nose

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Liver enlargement

  • Rapid breathing

  • Blood in vomit or stool

  • Persistent vomiting

Urgent medical intervention becomes necessary in the event of development of shock or bleeding as these complications can turn out to be lethal.

Diagnosis of Dengue Fever

A blood sample is required to detect the presence of infection and for diagnosis of Dengue Fever. Reverse transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) is one such technique which directly detects the virus within the first few days of infection. Apart from this, there are other diagnostic tests available that can detect a viral protein called NS1. 

What does the treatment involve?

There is no specific antiviral drug available to treat Dengue. The only available vaccine for Dengue is meant for people within the age group of 9 to 45 years who have already had an episode of Dengue Fever. This vaccine is given over a period of one year in three doses. The blood test will show seropositivity for such individuals i.e. the test should show a positive result for the presence of one of the Dengue viruses. 

Risk factors for Dengue Fever

There are some risk factors for developing Dengue Fever in case of the following.

  • You live or travel in the tropical regions: The tropical and subtropical regions include the Western Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America which increase the risk of exposure to the virus causing Dengue. 

  • You have had an exposure to the Dengue virus: The chances of getting severe Dengue Fever increase if you have already had an exposure to the virus.

Complications

If a person suffers from severe Dengue, it can lead to complications such as organ damage and internal bleeding. There are chances that the blood pressure may drop to dangerous levels, leading to a state of shock. In some cases, when the complication becomes severe it can lead to death. 

In some pregnancies, when the mother suffers from Dengue Fever, the virus can pass onto the offspring during childbirth. Babies born to such pregnancies have a high risk of having low birth weight, premature birth, and foetal distress.

Prevention of Dengue Fever

Conventional methods for Dengue control depend on lessening the number of stagnant, water-holding containers which can easily become the breeding ground of mosquitoes. Other than this, frequent spraying of insecticides on a regular basis can put a check on the mosquito population. Another effective method would be the use of personal repellents and wearing protective clothing to protect against mosquito bites. The place where you live should be air conditioned and have screens over the windows to prevent the entry of mosquitoes into the house.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Dengue Fever.

Is Dengue Fever contagious?

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No, Dengue Fever is not contagious and does not spread on coming in contact with an infected person. However, if a mosquito bites someone who has Dengue and then bites another person, the bitten person can get infected with the disease. This is the usual mode of transmission of the disease which can lead to the disease becoming an epidemic.

Is Dengue treatable with antibiotics?

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No, since Dengue is a viral disease, antibiotics are not effective against the virus and hence, should not be used.

What steps can be taken to reduce the risk of developing Dengue Fever?

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Care should be taken that there are no stagnant water bodies in your vicinity, which can become a breeding place for the female Aedes mosquitoes to lay eggs.

If I suffered from Dengue Fever earlier, am I still susceptible to it?

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If a person has suffered from Dengue Fever in the past, it means that they are only protected against that particular virus serotype. However, the person can still be infected by the other 3 virus serotypes.

Can Dengue spread from one person to another through saliva?

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No, Dengue cannot spread from person to person through saliva.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/symptoms/index.html#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20symptom%20of,%2C%20joint%2C%20or%20bone%20pain 

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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