Dengue is a viral fever caused by the bite of one of the several types of mosquitoes belonging to the genus Aedes egypti. This is a non-communicable disease i.e. it cannot spread directly from one person to another. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected day-biting female mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on the blood of a person infected with the virus. After an interval of about a week, when the same mosquito bites another healthy individual, the disease is transmitted.
The dengue virus is mostly active during day-time and the disease commonly occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and Pacific islands, the Caribbean and Central and South Americas. The symptoms usually start occurring about four to six days after getting infected from the bite and the disease itself usually last for about ten days after that.
The common symptoms of this debilitating disease are:
- Sudden, high fever
- Severe headache
- Joint and muscle pains
- Bleeding from the gums, nose and ears
- Pain behind the eyes
In some cases, the dengue may develop into a life-threatening debilitating disease known as Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever or Dengue Shock Syndrome due to severe bleeding (Haemorrhage), dangerously low platelet count in the blood and/or an alarming drop in blood pressure levels. Since some of the symptoms of this disease are common to those of other diseases, an accurate diagnosis is necessary for proper treatment. The patient may have to undergo some tests and provide a blood sample to confirm the presence of the dengue virus. The patient’s medical and travel history is also examined, particularly the latter if he/she had been recently traveling to areas prone to dengue outbreaks.
As in the case of all diseases, prevention is the best way to tackle dengue. Some of the preventive measures that are recommended are:
- Preventing water stagnation inside the homes and outside as mosquito larvae breed on stagnant water.
- Keeping the surroundings clean by ensuring proper waste and garbage disposal.
- Wearing loose clothes that fully cover the arms and legs.
- Keeping mosquito repellents, sprays, creams and mats handy
Unfortunately, Dengue being a viral disease, there is no specific treatment or cure available and the type of treatment measures depends on the symptoms exhibited. Antibiotics have no effect and medications such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen must be avoided as they can aggravate the bleeding. Painkillers such as Paracetamol can be taken for relief from pain and lower the fever. It is also important to drink sufficient water to prevent dehydration. In severe cases, when the platelet count in the blood drops to dangerous levels (below 150,000 per microliter of blood), blood transfusion might be necessary to restore the platelet count.
There are some simple home remedies which can be used to keep Dengue at bay. These include intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, grapefruit, amla, carrots etc. to strengthen the immune system of the body. Neem leaves and omega 3 rich foods such as walnuts also help protecting oneself. A vaccine for dengue known as Dengvaxia was recently developed by Sanofi. However, additional clinical trials are needed to check for its veracity and effectiveness before being marketed on a commercial basis around the world.
Prevention and early diagnosis are the primary weapons available against this ailment. In case of complications, timely and adequate medical care can help in recovery.