Dengue: What You Must Know

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What is Dengue Fever (DF)?

Dengue fever is an infection caused by a virus. It occurs commonly as dengue fever. Occasionally a patient suffering form dengue may develop bleeding. Common sites for bleeding are the nose, gums and skin. Sometimes, the patient may have coffee-ground vomiting or black stools. This indicates bleeding in the intestines. The patient with dengue fever who develops bleeding has dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF).

How does dengue spread?

Dengue fever is transmitted to people by the bite of an Aedes mosquito that is infected with the dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected with dengue when it bites a person who has dengue fever or DHF. Dengue fever cannot be spread directly from person to person.

When should I suspect Dengue?

Dengue should be suspected when you have sudden onset of high fever, 39-40°C, accompanied with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, body aches, rashes on the skin and nausea or vomiting. The fever lasts for 5-7 days. In some patients, fever comes down on the third or fourth day but it recurs.

Can dengue fever be treated at home?

Most patients with dengue fever can be treated at home. They should take rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Whenever available, Oral Rehydration Salt (commonly used in treating diarrhea) should be used. Sufficient fluid intake is very important. Generally the progression towards dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome occurs after 3-5 days of fever. At this time, fever has often come down. This may mislead many of us to believe that the patient is heading towards recovery. This is the most dangerous period that requires high vigilance. It is best to consult a physician. Indications for hospitalization are persistent vomiting, inability to take oral fluids, persistent abdominal pain, restlessness, or bleeding from any site (nose, gums, passage of black stools).

What is the treatment?

Like most viral diseases there is no specific cure for dengue fever. Antibiotics do not help. Paracetamol is the drug of choice to bring down fever and joint pain. Aspirin and Ibuprofen should be avoided since they can increase the risk of bleeding.

Can people die from dengue fever?

People who suffer from dengue fever have no risk of death but some of them develop Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever or Dengue Shock Syndrome. In some of these cases death can occur. With proper treatment, the patients with these conditions can recover fully. Proper treatment provided in time can save lives.

Is there a vaccine to prevent dengue fever?

A vaccine has been developed to prevent dengue fever but it is still under trial. It is not yet available in the market.

How can the multiplication of mosquitoes be reduced?

Dengue mosquitoes breed in stored, exposed water collections. To prevent the mosquitoes from multiplying, drain out the water from tanks, barrels, drums, buckets, etc. Remove all objects containing water (e.g. plant saucers) from the house. Collect and destroy discarded containers where water can collect, e.g., bottles, plastic bags, cans, tires, etc. If storage of water can't be helped, the container should be covered with a tight fitting lid.

How can I prevent mosquito bites?

Dengue mosquitoes bite during the day time. The highest biting intensity is about 2 hours after sunrise and before sunset. Wear full sleeves clothing and long dresses to cover as much of your body as possible. Use repellents but be careful in using them in young children and the elderly. Use mosquito coils and electric vapor mats during daytime. Use mosquito nets to protect children, old people and others who nap during the day.

What can the community do to prevent dengue?

The main strategy in the prevention and control of dengue is source reduction, or prevention of breeding places. Every household can undertake simple measures to prevent existing water collections from becoming breeding places of Aedes aegypti. House cleaning by all members of the community will ensure that no breeding places exist, preventing dengue form occurring.

Source: Health Alert, A Bulletin from the Infection Control Service, St. Luke's Medical Center.

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