Dengue fever is a disease that is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and caused by one of the dengue viruses that are closely linked. The viruses responsible for causing dengue fever are associated to those that cause the West Nile virus infection and yellow fever.
On a yearly basis, it is estimated that millions of cases of dengue fever occur all over the globe. The tropical regions are heavily affected and areas that have the highest risk for infection including the following:
- Pacific islands
- Southeast Asia
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Central America
- Northern parts of Australia
Most of the cases that were diagnosed occur among those who acquired the disease while travelling abroad. Nevertheless, the risk of infection is increasing in some areas. It is important to note that dengue fever is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that carries the dengue virus. Remember that person-to-person transmission will not spread the disease.
What are the symptoms?
When an individual acquires dengue fever, the symptoms typically start about 4-7 days after the initial infection. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and can be mistaken as symptoms of flu or another infection. Young children and those who have not experienced infection might have a milder form of the illness than adults and older children. The symptoms usually last for about 10 days which include:
- Severe headache
- Abrupt high fever
- Swollen lymph glands
- Skin rashes
- Severe joint and muscle pain
- Mild to severe nausea and vomiting
- Mild bleeding from the gums or nose
- Mild skin bruising
What are the complications?
The complications of dengue fever include dehydration and febrile convulsions. Some individuals who have dengue fever can end up with a serious form of the disease which is called dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Those who face a high risk for developing dengue include those who have antibodies to dengue virus from a previous infection, those below 12 years old, Caucasian race, being female and a weakened immune system.
Dengue hemorrhagic fever is characterized by high fever, damage to the lymphatic system and blood vessels, nose and gum bleeding, enlargement of the liver and circulatory system failure. The symptoms can instigate dengue shock syndrome which is severe and can lead to massive bleeding and even death.
How dengue fever is diagnosed
The doctor will utilize blood tests to check for the presence of viral antibodies or presence of infection. If the individual has symptoms after travelling abroad, a doctor should be consulted for testing.
Treatment of dengue fever
Remember that there is no medication or treatment specifically for dengue fever. If the individual is infected with dengue, over-the-counter pain medications can be given to reduce the fever, joint pain and headache. Do not provide ibuprofen and aspirin since these can cause bleeding. If you want to help ease the symptoms, you can enroll in a class on first aid today.
The doctor will perform a medical exam and the individual should rest and drink plenty of fluids. If the individual feels worse after the initial 24 hours once the fever has subsided, he/she must be taken to the hospital to be assessed for any possible complications.