Dengue Fever Explained

Fever Dengue (pronounced DEN-gee) is caused by viruses that are transmitted by mosquito bites. It is a severe illness that starts suddenly and usually follows a benevolent course with such symptoms as fever, headache, intense muscle and joint pains, exhaustion, lymphadenopathy (swollen glands) and the telltale rash. Dengue is characterized by the presence of what is called the “dengue triad” (headache, fever and rash). There are other signs of dengue like stark pain behind the eyes, gums that bleed, and redness in the palms of hands and soles of the feet. What is Dengue Fever?

Fever dengue strikes those who have low immunity levels. Fever dengue can be caused by any one of four types of the dengue virus: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4 (the numbers reflect the order of discovery and have no relation to disease severity). An individual can be infected by at least two types, if not all four at different times during his or her life. However, an attack of a particular type of dengue produce lifetime immunity against that serotype which the patient had been exposed to.

There are other names for dengue such as “dandy fever” or “breakbone.” The name “breakbone” was derived because the victims of dengue have contortions because of the intense muscle and joint pains. The name “dandy fever” was derived from the slaves of the West Indies who had contracted fever dengue because of their gait and postures.

The more severe viral serotype of fever dengue is dengue hemorrhagic fever. Signs include headache, rash, fever, petechiae (which are small purple or red blisters just under the skin), bleeding of the gums, blackened stools, and bruising that easily develop. Dengue hemorrhagic fever can be lethal and can develop into the most severe form of dengue which is dengue shock syndrome.

A person who has been bitten by the Aedes mosquito carrying the dengue virus will show signs and symptoms after 3 to 15 days (although it is more common from within 5 – 8 days). The person infected will first experience chills and then headaches or pain when they move their eyes, and lower back pain. The pain in the joints and muscle pain in the legs occur during the first hours. The body temperature will then rise to about 40 degrees Centigrade (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit). The heart rate will remain low (known as bradycardia) and so will the blood pressure (known as hypotension). There will be reddening of the eyes and then there will be a rash or flushing that comes over the face and then goes away. The lymph nodes (glands) in the groin and neck will be swollen.

Most of those who develop fever dengue completely recover within two weeks however there are some who may go through several weeks of feeling depressed and/or tired.

The virus is contracted from the bite of a striped mosquito known as the Aedes aegypti that has been previously bitten a dengue infected person. This mosquito flourishes during the rainy seasons or monsoons but can easily breed in water-filled potholes, drains, flower pots, old tires, plastic bags, and cans all year-round. Only one mosquito bite is enough to inflict the disease.

The dengue virus is not contagious and cannot spread directly from one individual to another. To spread, there must be a pathway that goes “person-to-mosquito-to-another-person”.

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