A mosquito bite is often the cause of many dreaded diseases like malaria, filariasis, Zika, Chikungunya or Dengue. The Aedes mosquito is the carrier of Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue as well as other viruses. Dengue or breakbone fever, as it is commonly known, is one of the most widespread viral infections with half the global population being at risk. Over 400 million people are annually infected with Dengue leading to over 40,000 fatalities. So, Dengue is definitely not something you can treat lightly.
Understanding the Dengue Virus
When the Aedes mosquito bites an infected person, the virus enters the bloodstream of the mosquito which it then transmits to a healthy person by biting him/her. Dengue is caused by the Dengue Virus or DENV which has 4 serotypes 1,2,3 and 4. This means that a person can get infected 4 times in his life with the Dengue Virus. Once the person recovers from the infection, he becomes immune to that strain of virus but remains susceptible to the other three. Usually, DENV infections cause mild fever but sometimes it can take a turn for the worse and result in serious dengue which could prove fatal. The probability of developing serious dengue increases in the event of multiple infections. Dengue needs to be treated by healthcare professionals. It occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and is common in urban and semi-urban areas. Populations in India, South East Asia, Africa, Mexico and parts of Central and South America are most vulnerable. There is no prescribed treatment for dengue. Early detection and access to medical care can help to expedite the treatment. The prevention and control of Dengue depend on effective vector control measures which need the involvement of the entire community.
What are the symptoms of Dengue? What are the tell-tale signs you should look out for?
Generally, Dengue feels like any other fever and is not distinguishable in teens and children. It causes a high fever over 104 degrees F along with a minimum of two of these symptoms.
- Muscle, bone and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swollen glands
- Pain behind the eyes
In case of -
- Mild Dengue fever - You will notice the symptoms a week after the bite and it could lead to severe complications.
- Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever - The symptoms could be mild initially but tend to worsen with time.
- Dengue Shock Syndrome - This is a dangerous type of dengue that can be fatal.
How is Dengue treated?
As mentioned above, there is no prescribed treatment for Dengue as it is a viral infection. Early detection and prompt medical intervention can help to reduce the severity of the disease.
Medicines: Paracetamol and pain relievers containing acetaminophen are usually prescribed to patients to arrest the fever. In case of severe dehydration, a saline drip may be administered.
Need to remain hydrated : The frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting combined with high fever can cause the body to lose essential fluids. It is imperative to have a continuous intake of fluids to ensure that the body does not suffer from dehydration.
Maintain personal hygiene: It is important to maintain personal hygiene even when you are running a temperature. You can choose to have a sponge bath with warm water with a few drops of Dettol. Always sanitize your hands. Use a disinfectant to wash the patient’s clothes to get rid of the germs.
How can Dengue be prevented?
While there is no prescribed treatment for Dengue the best way is to prevent the occurrence of Dengue by taking a few precautions on a regular basis.
- Reduce your skin exposure - Wearing full sleeved clothes will keep your skin covered and reduce the probability of mosquito bites. The Aedes mosquitoes are particularly active during the early morning and evening hours. So, you are better off staying indoors during these times.
- Personal hygiene - It is important to maintain strict personal hygiene especially during an illness as you are extra vulnerable to infection. Use a hand sanitizer at all times to keep yourself safe.
- Use a mosquito repellent - Use an effective mosquito repellent every time you go out to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
- Do not allow stagnant water - Aedes mosquitoes breed rapidly in clean and stagnant water. It is advisable to keep water covered and use a disinfectant if needed. Do not let water accumulate and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes in and around your house.
Dengue in times of COVID-19
Cases of Dengue are on the rise in several states in India with a new, virulent strain called DENV-2 which is causing severe fever and could lead to fatal complications. It is important to be extra cautious in our approach and get medical attention as soon as you notice symptoms. There is no need to confuse it with COVID-19 or delay the diagnosis and treatment. Severe dengue could have serious indicators like breathing issues, blood clotting, delirium, liver and multi organ failure.
It is possible to be infected with two viruses simultaneously. So, it is best to get the blood tested for the right diagnosis and treatment. You are advised to follow COVID protocols and take suitable precautions.
All mosquito bites do not lead to Dengue. It is the bite of the female Aedes mosquito that causes the disease. The bite of a Dengue mosquito leaves a dark red mark and itches more than usual although it would take close to a week for the symptoms to develop.
People of all age groups are equally vulnerable to the Dengue infection and necessary precaution needs to be taken by everyone.
Contracting Dengue once does not make you immune to the virus. You may end up contracting it 3 more times in your lifetime. It is best to observe precautions at all times and make an effort to keep the surroundings clean to reduce the risk of Dengue.
Unlike COVID-19, Dengue is not contagious. It can only be transmitted through a mosquito bite. Keeping your house clean , using a mosquito repellent and reducing skin exposure may be the best options to reduce the risk of contracting dengue.
A drop in the platelet level could be an indicator of dengue but could also be due to other unrelated reasons. It is best not to jump to conclusions and undertake a thorough medical investigation.
Dengue is as big a threat as COVID-19 and should not be ignored or underestimated. In combination with COVID, it could be fatal due to the low immunity level. It is best not to ignore symptoms and get a diagnostic test done as soon as the symptoms are observed. It is important to be aware of the causes of Dengue and the indicators to watch out for. Early detection combined with proper medical attention can help the patient recover quickly and lead a normal life. Prevention comes first. Prompt action is the logical step in case you fail to prevent it. Stay safe and obtain medical aid in case of any unusual symptoms. Self-medication is dangerous and should be avoided.