Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne infection caused by four different but closely related viruses, spread by the Aedes mosquitoes. Dengue Fever is also called breakbone fever and is often painful and unbearable. As per records, the virus transferred from monkeys to humans between 100 and 800 years ago but was always a minor problem until it was widespread in Africa in the 20th century and then spread to the tropical areas of the world. The fever is now extensively spread and has caused multiple deaths in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Southern China, and Taiwan.
Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito which is infected with a dengue virus. An Aedes mosquito breeds in containers holding water and cannot fly more than 200 metres from their place of origin. The Dengue mosquito is most active after sunrise and before sunset, and can breed inside or outside the house. The mosquito does not breed in pools, creeks, or other water bodies. As per research, 40 percent of the world population lives in areas where there is a high risk of dengue transmission. The symptoms of dengue fever begin usually after 4 to 7 days post the mosquito bite and last up to 3-7 days. Dengue fever though highly widespread can be cured easily if the symptoms are detected early on stage. Hence, it is very important to know the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention to be safe from dengue fever.
Causes of Dengue Fever
There are four closely related viruses called the DENV that cause dengue fever. All these four viruses are spread by a species of mosquito known as the Aedes. The Aedes mosquito breeds in containers holding water for long inside or outside the house and spreads the virus by biting a human. Thereafter, when a normal mosquito bites a human infected with the dengue virus, the mosquito catches the virus which is then spread to another human that receives the bite. It is possible that a person may get infected with dengue virus and has dengue fever more than once; although the second time is harsher than the first.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
While it is important to know what causes dengue fever, it is more critical to understand how to detect that a person has been infected by the dengue virus. Some of the common symptoms associated with dengue fever are:
- Sudden high fever
- Intense headache
- Pain in the eye-forehead portion
- Severe pain in joints and muscles
- Acute weakness and fatigue
- Rashes on the skin
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Loss of appetite
The symptoms usually appear 4 days after the dengue virus infection and last up to 10 days. The skin rash, however, appears two to five days after the dengue fever. Oftentimes, dengue fever symptoms could be mistaken with those of viral fever, infection or flu. That said, in severe and rare cases of dengue infection, some serious problems might appear such as damage to the lymph and blood vessels caused by dengue hemorrhagic fever; bleeding from the nose and gums; liver enlargement; and circulatory system failure. These rare symptoms, when intensify can cause shock and death also referred to as the dengue shock syndrome (DSS).
Treatment of Dengue Fever
Dengue fever can be detected via blood tests and would need immediate attention and care. However, there is no particular medicine to cure the fever caused by the dengue virus and each case needs to be evaluated individually to determine the course of treatment. That said, if you have been detected with dengue fever you can take pain killers that contain acetaminophen or paracetamol and avoid medicines that have aspirin in them since that is known to intensify the bleeding. More so, you should immediately consult your doctor and in the meanwhile, increase the consumption of fluids and take plenty of rest. If your symptoms worsen after the fever, you should visit the hospital as soon as possible. Also, in cases of children suffering from dengue fever, it is best to take advice from the doctor before proceeding with any medications including aspirin.
Prevention of Dengue Fever
Since dengue fever is caused by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, the best way to prevent the infection is to stay away from infected mosquito bites. No vaccine or drug can prevent the infection; instead, you can follow the following methods to stay clear from mosquito bites:
- Use mosquito repellent inside and outside the house
- If you are out, wear clothes that cover your skin completely
- Inside the house, use air conditioners to keep mosquitoes away
- Use mosquito nets, wherever needed
- Close all windows and check for holes in door or window screens
- Avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes since they tend to attract more mosquitoes
- Best to avoid sitting under the trees or walking on the lawn at dawn, dusk or early evening
- Clear all containers – inside or outside the house – that have stagnant water
- Keep buckets and containers upside down to avoid mosquito breeding
- Do not let any excess water stay in flower pots or plant pot plates
- Change the water of flower vases every day
- Remove any containers placed under coolers or air conditioners
- Stay clear from anything that has stored stagnant water
- Change the bird or pet feeding and water dishes
Moreover, if a person you know or in your family has contacted the dengue fever or has symptoms of infection, ensure they are protected from any further mosquito bites since, the virus could spread if a mosquito bites an infected human being then in turn bites another person.
With dengue fever on the rise and the increasing number of persons being affected by the virus, it is important to be completely aware to guard yourself and ensure safety. In case of any doubt, consult your doctor and get medical advice.