Dengue fever is a disease that is transferred via the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is carrying the dengue virus.
Minor cases of dengue fever are characterized by high fever, rashes, and pain in the joints and muscles. Major instances of dengue fever, which includes the dangerous dengue hemorrhagic fever, can result in excessive bleeding, shock, unexpected reduction of blood pressure, and even fatalities.
Every year, dengue fever affects millions of individuals throughout the world. The condition is more common in Southeast Asia and parts of the Western Pacific. Of late, dengue fever cases have also become prevalent in the Caribbean and Latin America.
There is currently no vaccine for dengue fever. It is however possible to prevent the development and spread of the condition by reducing or eliminating mosquito habitats in those parts of planet where it is widespread.
Symptoms of dengue fever
A majority of the patients, particularly young kids and teenagers, do not elicit any symptoms during mild cases of dengue fever. It has been seen that the symptoms begin to form three or four days after the person gets bitten by an infected mosquito. The usual symptoms are:
High fever along with body temperatures that touch nearly 106 F or 41 C
Patients may experience pain in the muscles, bones, and joints
Vomiting and/or nausea
There may be pain in the back of the eyes
Rashes may occur throughout the body
Minor bleeding from the gums and nose may be noticed
Most patients recuperate from dengue fever after experiencing the symptoms for a week. In some cases, the symptoms can deteriorate and pose serious threat to the life of the patient. There may be injury of the blood vessels leading to leakage of blood. The number of platelets or clot-making cells may also reduce drastically. This can result in the following symptoms:
Key organs such as the lungs, liver, and the heart may face problems
There may be bleeding beneath the skin, making it seem like bruises
The nose and mouth may elicit extensive bleeding
There may be severe pain in the abdominal area
How dengue fever affects the platelet count
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a carrier of the dengue virus. The main effect of this virus in on the platelet count. In normal circumstances, a platelet remains in the body for five to ten days and the body replenishes the platelet quantity as and when required. The dengue fever virus destroys the body’s ability to make new blood platelets.
A healthy person will typically have a platelet count ranging between 150,000 and 250,000 per μl of blood. After an infection by the dengue virus, the platelet count in the bloodstream begins to fall. A platelet count of less than 100,000 per μl is an emergency situation requiring immediate medical attention. A platelet count of below 50,000 per μl is considered life-threatening.
It is also important to note that platelets are blood-clotting cells and any fall in their overall count can prevent the development of clots. This can then lead to internal as well as external bleeding, which is quite difficult to stop once it starts.
Causes of dengue fever
Dengue fever is caused due to the transmission of any one of the 4 types of dengue viruses. The viruses are transferred through the bite of an infected mosquito. Such infected mosquitoes can be found in the vicinity of human dwellings and the adjoining regions. A mosquito can also turn into a carrier of dengue virus after it bites an individual affected by dengue fever. This infected mosquito can then spread the disease when it bites other healthy people. A dengue epidemic is caused due to the unregulated growth of such infected mosquitoes.
After a patient has recuperated from dengue fever, he/she develops immunity towards it. However, the patient is still vulnerable to infection by the remaining three kinds of dengue viruses. When an individual contracts dengue fever for the second, third, or fourth time, he/she is more likely to develop the more severe form of dengue fever, i.e. dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Some risk factors which can increase the susceptibility to developing dengue fever are listed below:
Residents of the subtropical and tropical areas of the planet; particularly regions with increased risk like Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific islands; are at greater risk to contracting the dengue virus. Travelling to these regions also increases the risk to developing dengue fever.
Patients, especially children, who have suffered from previous cases of dengue fever are more likely to develop the severe form of dengue fever.
Diagnosis of dengue fever
The signs and symptoms of dengue fever tend to mimic the symptoms of other conditions like leptospirosis,malaria, and typhoid fever, leading to confusion. Hence, diagnosis of dengue fever can be quite difficult.
The physician will ask about a patient’s travel and medical history. It is important to provide detailed information to the doctor. A few lab tests will also be conducted to detect the presence of dengue viruses.
Dengue fever: Treatment and prevention
There is no one particular treatment for dengue fever, doctors may recommend drinking lots of water to prevent vomiting and dehydration.
Acetaminophen can be useful to treat fever and body-ache. Pain killers like ibuprofen and aspirin should be avoided as they can elevate the risk to bleeding complications.
Severe cases warrant hospitalization, which include medical care, monitoring of blood pressure, intravenous fluid and electrolyte administration, and blood transfusion.
A dengue fever vaccine is currently in the developmental stages. People living or traveling to a region known as an endemic dengue fever area, can evade contracting the disease by taking precautionary measures to avoid getting bitten by infected mosquitoes.
The below listed guidelines will help you avoid getting bitten by dengue fever carrier mosquitoes:
Keep out the mosquitoes by staying in well-screened or air-conditioned rooms.
When visiting mosquito infested areas, wear long sleeved shirts and other protective apparels which limit the amount of exposed skin
Mosquitoes are plentiful during late evening, dawn, and dusk. Avoid the outdoors during these times
Use mosquito repellents. Decrease or destroy the mosquito habitats.