Dengue fever: Prevention, symptoms and treatment

Dengue fever: Prevention, symptoms and treatment

With the arrival of monsoons, the threat of another dengue fever outbreak looms large on New Delhi. Last year was particularly severe as 15867 cases were registered, which were by far the highest number of cases in the last 5 years. Till now (as on 28th July, 2016), 90 cases have been registered this year which is again higher as compared to the previous years[1].

Though efforts are on by the delhi government to raise awareness and take necessary steps to manage dengue fever cases better this time, but every individual will also need to do his/her bit to ensure that we do not witness a repeat of last year. In this blog post, we’ll share some information about dengue virus and steps which should be taken to prevent as well as manage it effectively.

 

How is dengue virus transmitted? What are the important preventive measures?

Dengue fever virus is a mosquito-borne virus which is transmitted by female mosquitoes primarily of the species Aedes aegypti. Aedes mosquito is a small, dark mosquito with white lyre shaped markings and banded legs. This mosquito ususally bites indoors and primarily bites during the day time (though it can bite at night as well in well lit areas). It is extremely common in areas without piped water systems as these mosquitoes depend largely on water containers to lay their eggs. An important point which is unfortunately largely ignored is that Aedes mosquito breeds in fresh clean water as opposed to standing water or dirty drains which we normally associate with mosquitoes. Thus, it extremely important to ensure that there are no water filled containers e.g. old broken goods kept at rooftops, water coolers, pet-watering dishes etc in our surrounding areas. Apart from that, it is recommended to wear full sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes during the day time when these mosquitos are active and apply mosquito repellent over the exposed skin.

What are the symptoms of Dengue Fever?

Symptoms of dengue fever usually begin 4-10 days after one has been bitten by an infected mosquito. The symptoms may range from no signs (during mild cases of dengue fever) to bleeding from nose, mouth, severe abdominal pain etc. The principle symptoms though are:

  • High fever

  • Severe joint and muscle pain

  • Swollen lymph nodes, headaches

  • Exhaustion

  • Rashes

Symptoms may rarely include minor bleeding from gums or nose as well.

Is there any treatment?

There is no defined treatment for a dengue infection. Typically, it is recommended that patients should avoid ibuprofen, asprin or asprin containing drugs as these medicines increase the risk of bleeding. Patients should rest and keep themselves hydrated and should be in contact with their physicians.

You may ask why keep in touch with physician when there is no treatment? A valid question but dengue requires symptomatic treatment i.e. treatment is concerned with relief of the symptoms. If ignored, in certain cases dengue fever can prove to be fatal.

The key for effective management of dengue fever is early recognition and understanding of the clinical problems during the different phases of the disease.

Why are diagnostic tests needed then?

The difficult part in early detection of dengue is that frequently, the symptoms of dengue fever are not very different from other types of fevers also prevelant during this season. This problem is addressed through diagnostic tests available in laboratories. As per National Guidelines for Clinical Management of Dengue Fever - “Government of India (GoI) recommends use of ELISA-based antigen detection test (NS1) for diagnosing the cases from the first day onwards and antibody detection test IgM capture ELISA (MAC-ELISA) for diagnosing the cases after the fifth day of onset of disease.” 

A common misconception is that dengue fever is extremely dangerous and can lead to fatality in majority of the cases. You’ll be surprised to know that only a very small fraction (0.37% last year) of dengue fever cases result in a fatality. In most of the cases even an admission into a hospital is not needed. Only thing needed from our side is that we need to be extra cautious particularly during the months of August - November and visit a physician immediately in case of fever.

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