Dengue is an acute viral infection that continues to plague many countries across the world, including India. Almost over 40% of the world population is living in areas where there is a high risk of dengue. It is still considered one of the leading causes of illness in many countries.
While mild dengue can cause flu-like symptoms, severe dengue can present with potentially fatal complications. Dengue is caused by the bite of the female Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same species responsible for spreading other viruses like Zika, Chikungunya, etc. It is a mosquito-borne disease caused by four related viruses (called serotypes) namely Dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4. Once you are infected with one of these viruses, your body tends to develop immunity to that particular virus, however, you can still catch the other three viruses and get infected at a later stage in life. Because of this very reason, a person can be reinfected with Dengue in his/her lifetime. Although outbreaks in India were mainly due to serotypes 2 and 3 (DENV-2 and DENV-3), dengue virus serotype 1 (DENV-1) was the predominant serotype reported in the 2010 Delhi outbreak.
The mosquito that spreads the dengue virus is mostly found in contaminated stagnant waters in buckets, flower vases, coolers, etc, and usually bites on the legs and arms and is most commonly seen during the daytime, indoors or outdoors. The virus is only caused by the bite of the Aedes mosquito and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Very rarely, dengue can be spread through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or through a needle stick injury.
- Symptoms of Dengue
Symptoms of Dengue are often mistaken or confused with other flu or cold-like illnesses responsible for causing fever and body aches. The most common symptoms of Dengue are:
- Rashes on the body
- Muscle or bone pains
- Body ache
- Severe headache
- High fever
- Tests for Dengue
Doctors use simple blood tests for diagnosing dengue fever. These tests can check for the viral antibodies or the presence of a specific antigen. The most definitive test for Dengue includes a rapid point of care test, known as Dengue NS1 antigen test which can help in identifying the fever early and with more promptness. It increases the likelihood of providing a confirmed diagnosis which enables the doctor to provide patients with appropriate and timely advice and quick follow-ups as well. For patients presenting more than 1 week after fever onset, IgM detection is most useful, although NS1 has been reported positive up to 12 days after fever onset.
Dengue fever usually results in a decreased platelet count in most people. Therefore, the platelet count should be monitored carefully and regularly. A complete blood count (CBC) test gives a complete blood picture along with the platelet count. Make sure to get tested on time.
Typically, if you have dengue, you will be positive for dengue-specific NS1 antigen, a decrease in platelet count, and a decrease in total white blood cells (WBC) count.
- Treatment for Dengue
Symptoms of dengue typically last 2–7 days. Most people will recover after about a week. The treatment is usually symptomatic, so if someone has a fever or body pain due to dengue, he/ she need to use over-the-counter fever medicines or pain killers to bring down fever, body pains, or headaches. A word of caution here would be to avoid aspirin or ibuprofen as these can further worsen the situation. You should drink plenty of fluids and take proper rest. Drink water at regular intervals or any drink with added electrolytes. Mild symptoms can be treated at home with care, but if the symptoms continue till the late, getting yourself admitted to the hospital as and when advised by your doctor to avoid further complications is the wisest choice.
- Treatment for severe dengue
If you have any warning signs, seek medical assistance immediately. There is no vaccine for preventing severe dengue. Medical treatment might include blood or platelet transfusion, giving intravenous fluids for hydration. In cases where the patient’s oxygen levels dip, oxygen therapy is also suggested.
- Prevention of dengue
The first and foremost thing to be done for preventing dengue is to reduce the mosquito population to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes mosquitoes. Follow the below guidelines:
- Use a good mosquito repellent both inside the house as well as when you step outside.
- Go for mosquito nets during sleeping, if you are not comfortable using them, you can also apply repellent or use electric repellent devices.
- For reducing the mosquito population, make sure water is not collected in birdbaths, pet dishes, flower pots, cans, or any other empty vessel.
- During summers, keep changing the water inside the coolers. All of these should be checked, emptied, and refreshed regularly.
- Wear full sleeves clothes while going outside to prevent mosquito bites.
Remember, a little bit of extra caution can go a long way in preventing you and your loved ones from falling sick with dengue.