Protect Yourself and Your Family From Dengue Fever
A recent study, conducted by Professor Simon Hay of University of Oxford, established that nearly 4oo million people are on a yearly basis infected with the Dengue virus: nearly four times the estimate of the World Health Organization. Dengue is a mosquito borne viral infection, found predominantly in the tropical and sub tropical regions of the world. Although the origin of the Dengue fever is unclear, the first severe dengue outbreak can be traced all the way back to the 1820’s. However, in the last several decades, more particularly since the 1960’s, Dengue has become the fastest spreading tropical disease and is now endemic in over a hundred countries across the world.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly two – fifths of the world’s population is vulnerable and at risk from dengue fever and despite the alarming statistics, a concrete treatment for dengue has yet to be made available. Although scientists do believe that a dengue vaccine might be a reality in the near future, there are currently no vaccines that can protect you.
A person can get infected by the dengue virus through a the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito, symptoms of which can sometimes take over a week to manifest. One of the most pertinent reasons for the delayed treatment of a patient suffering from dengue is misdiagnosis: since there are many similarities between early symptoms of dengue and the seasonal flu. Therefore, an accurate and timely diagnosis of the illness and prompt medical care are of utmost importance in the treatment of dengue. Let’s take a look at the different types of dengue and their respective symptoms.
I – Dengue Fever and Symptoms
The initial and early symptoms of dengue fever in babies, young children and adults can often just be limited to rash or mild fever; many people may not exhibit classical symptoms of dengue fever at all in the early stages of the infection. However, the following symptoms, if exhibited individually or in a combination with others, are considered characteristic and classic indications of dengue and warrant immediate medical attention:
– A high body temperature that has risen sharply, drops only to rise back up again.
– Excruciating pain in the joints and muscles. Dengue fever was formerly very aptly named as ‘break-bone fever’.
– Severe headaches sometimes accompanied by pain behind the eyes.
– Bouts of nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can also include falling white blood cells and a low platelet count in the body. Patients can also experience some bleeding from the gums, nose and under surface skin bleeding which can make the skin appear red and splotchy in places.
Dengue Fever Treatment
Firstly, a blood test is required to confirm the diagnosis of Dengue Fever. There are no medicines and nor can any antibiotics be prescribed; treatment essentially subsists of relieving the patients from symptoms of Dengue Fever. Adequate rest and hydration is stressed upon and only upon the doctor’s advice, should you take medication for muscle or joint pains. Care must be taken to not inadvertently take any medication such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen or other similar anti inflammatory drugs since they can result in thinning of the blood and increase chances of internal bleeding.
II – Severe Dengue and Symptoms
Dengue can be caused by four different strains of virus from the infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Infection from the dengue virus can cause a different illness altogether called ‘Severe Dengue’ (formerly known as ‘Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever’) which has a much higher fatality rate compared to dengue fever. Given the similarity amongst initial symptoms of both, severe dengue and dengue fever, keeping a close watch on the patients symptoms is key to managing the illness of the patient.
Patients suffering from severe dengue fever also experience a reduction in white blood cells, high fever and bleeding. The most significant symptoms of severe dengue is that of blood plasma leaking out of the smallest blood vessels, the capillaries, and/or severe bleeding. The leakage of the blood plasma is most likely to happen within a period of 24 – 48 hours post the dropping of body temperature and it is the worsening of the patient’s condition after the drop in body temperature that can be a clear indication of the infection. Other inherent symptoms include breathing difficulty, persistent abdominal pain, frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting, acute restlessness and cold and clammy skin.
Medical tests are conducted to check the level of protein and the count of red blood cells in the body, to conclusively determine the presence of the dengue infection. It is Severe Dengue in particular that is the cause for a significant number of fatalities and hospitalization of adults and children alike. If left untreated, the body can go into shock and death can occur within a duration of 24 hours.
Like Dengue Fever, there is no medication for the treatment of Severe Dengue either. Leakage of blood plasma can result in erratic or low blood supply in the body: in some cases a blood transfusion might be required. Doctors keep a close eye on the patient for any signs of dehydration and if required, administer fluids intravenously.
III – Prevention & After Care
As discussed earlier in the article, since there are currently no medicines or vaccines available to prevent or treat this infection, the only effective way of countering the spread of dengue is through managing your environment and subsequently controlling the spread of the virus. Here are some simple but effective ways to prevent the spread of the dengue virus:
1. Identify areas in the vicinity of your surroundings that are possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes: for example, decorative pots or other containers around the house where water can collect and stagnate. Wherever possible, eliminate such containers or corners.
2. Implement a water storage system where water either doesn’t stagnate and or is always covered. Insecticides may also be sprayed around such water containers.
3. Ensure regular disposal of garbage and implement waste management systems in and around residential area so as to mitigate breeding of mosquitoes.
4. In seasons where incidence of mosquito borne diseases are high, use mosquito repellent sprays or ointments on the body, install screens on windows and doors and whenever possible, wear clothes covering your entire body.
Lastly, please do keep in mind, that there are four different strains of the dengue virus; post recovering it is believed that the patient acquires lifelong immunity against that particular strain of virus only and sometimes a partial immunity from other strains of dengue; therefore utmost care should be taken nonetheless to protect yourself from the dengue virus in the future as well.