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Dengue Fever - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Precautions & more

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Dengue fever facts

Dengue fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes.

Symptoms such as headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands (lymphadenopathy), and rash. The presence (the "dengue triad") of fever, rash, and headache (and other pains) is particularly characteristic of dengue fever.

Dengue is prevalent throughout the tropics and subtropics. Outbreaks have occurred recently in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cuba, and in Paraguay in South America, and Costa Rica in Central America.

Because a virus causes dengue fever, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue fever, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms (symptomatic).

The acute phase of the illness with fever and myalgia lasts about one to two weeks.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a specific syndrome that tends to affect children under 10 years of age. It causes abdominal pain, hemorrhage (bleeding), and circulatory collapse (shock).

The prevention of dengue fever requires control or eradication of the mosquitoes carrying the virus that causes dengue.

There is currently no vaccine available for dengue fever.

 

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes. It is an acute illness of sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with symptoms such as headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen glands (lymphadenopathy), and rash. The presence (the "dengue triad") of fever, rash, and headache (and other pains) is particularly characteristic of dengue. Other signs of dengue fever include bleeding gums, severe pain behind the eyes, and red palms and soles.

Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) can affect anyone but tends to be more severe in people with compromised immune systems. Because it is caused by one of four serotypes of virus, it is possible to get dengue fever multiple times. However, an attack of dengue produces immunity for a lifetime to that particular serotype to which the patient was exposed. Dengue goes by other names, including "break bone" or "dandy fever."

Victims of dengue often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain, hence the name break bone fever. Slaves in the West Indies who contracted dengue were said to have dandy fever because of their postures and gait. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a more severe form of the viral illness.

Symptoms include headache, fever, rash, and evidence of hemorrhage in the body. Petechial (small red or purple splotches or blisters under the skin), bleeding in the nose or gums, black stools, or easy bruising are all possible signs of hemorrhage. This form of dengue fever can be life threatening and can progress to the most severe form of the illness, dengue.

 

What geographic areas are at high risk for contracting dengue fever?

Dengue is prevalent throughout the tropics and subtropics. Outbreaks have occurred recently in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cuba, and Central America. Cases have also been imported via tourists returning from areas with widespread dengue, including Tahiti, Singapore, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, the West Indies, India, and the Middle East (similar in distribution to the areas of the world that harbor malaria and yellow fever).

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 100 million cases of dengue fever with several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever requiring hospitalization each year. Nearly 40% of the world's population lives in an area endemic with dengue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 22,000 deaths occur yearly, mostly among children.

 

How is dengue fever contracted?

The virus is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. The mosquito flourishes during rainy seasons but can breed in water-filled flowerpots, plastic bags, and cans year-round. One mosquito bite can cause the disease. The virus is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. There must be a person-to-mosquito-to-another-person pathway.

 

What are dengue fever symptoms and signs?

After being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, the incubation period ranges from three to 15 (usually five to eight) days before the signs and symptoms of dengue appear in stages. Dengue starts with chills, headache, pain upon moving the eyes, and low.

Painful aching in the legs and joints occurs during the first hours of illness. The temperature rises quickly as high as 104 F (40 C), with relatively low heart rate (bradycardia) and low blood pressure (hypotension). The eyes become reddened.

A flushing or pale pink rash comes over the face and then disappears. The glands (lymph nodes) in the neck and groin are often swollen. Fever and other signs of dengue last for two to four days, followed by a rapid drop in body temperature (effervescence) with profuse sweating. This precedes a period with normal temperature and a sense of well-being that lasts about a day. A second rapid rise in temperature follows.

A characteristic rash appears along with the fever and spreads from the extremities to cover the entire body except the face. The palms and soles may be bright red and swollen.

 

How is dengue fever diagnosed?

The diagnosis of dengue fever is usually made when a patient exhibits the typical clinical symptoms of headache, fever, eye pain, severe muscle aches and petechial rash and has a history of being in an area where dengue fever is endemic. Dengue fever can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with those of many other viral illnesses, such as West Nile virus and chikungunya fever.

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a blood test to diagnose people with dengue fever, called the DENV Detect IgM Capture ELISA. The FDA notes that the new test may also give a positive result when a person has a closely related virus, such West Nile disease.

 

What is the treatment for dengue fever?

Because a virus causes dengue fever, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms. Rest and fluid intake for adequate hydration is important. Aspirin and drugs should only be taken under a doctor's supervision because of the possibility of worsening bleeding complications

 

What is the prognosis for typical dengue fever?

Typical dengue is fatal in less than 1% of cases. The acute phase of the illness with fever and myalgia lasts about one to two weeks. Convalescence is accompanied by a feeling of weakness (asthenia), and full recovery often takes several weeks.

 

What is dengue hemorrhagic fever?

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a specific syndrome that tends to affect children under 10 years of age. It causes abdominal pain, hemorrhage (bleeding), and circulatory collapse (shock). DHF is also called Philippine, Thai, or Southeast Asian hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

DHF starts abruptly with high continuous fever and headache. There are respiratory and intestinal symptoms with sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Shock occurs two to six days after the start of symptoms with sudden collapse, cool, clammy extremities (the trunk is often warm), weak pulse, and blueness around the mouth (circumoral cyanosis).

In DHF, there is bleeding with easy bruising, blood spots in the skin (petechiae), spitting up blood (hematemesis), blood in the stool (melena), bleeding gums, and nosebleeds (epistaxis). Pneumonia is common, and inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) may be present. Patients with DHF must be monitored closely for the first few days since shock may occur or recur precipitously (dengue shock syndrome).

Cyanotic (bluish) patients are given oxygen. Vascular collapse (shock) requires immediate fluid replacement. Blood transfusions may be needed to control bleeding. The mortality (death) rate with DHF is significant. With proper treatment, the World Health Organization estimates a 2.5% mortality rate. However, without proper treatment, the mortality rate rises to 20%. Most deaths occur in children. Infants under a year of age are especially at risk of dying from DHF.

 

How can dengue fever be prevented?

The transmission of the virus to mosquitoes must be interrupted to prevent the illness. To this end, patients are kept under mosquito netting until the second bout of fever is over and they are no longer contagious.

The prevention of dengue requires control or eradication of the mosquitoes carrying the virus that causes dengue. In nations plagued by dengue fever, people are urged to empty stagnant water from old tires, trashcans, and flower pots. Governmental initiatives to decrease mosquitoes also help to keep the disease in check but have been poorly effective.

To prevent mosquito bites, wear long pants and long sleeves. For personal protection, use mosquito repellant sprays that contain DEET when visiting places where dengue is endemic.

There are no specific risk factors for contracting dengue fever, except living in or traveling to an area where the mosquitoes and virus are endemic. Limiting exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding standing water and staying indoors two hours after sunrise and before sunset will help.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a daytime biter with peak periods of biting around sunrise and sunset. It may bite at any time of the day and is often hidden inside homes or other dwellings, especially in urban areas.

There is currently no vaccination available for dengue fever. There is a vaccine undergoing clinical trials, but it is too early to tell if it will be safe or effective. Early results of clinical trials show that a vaccine may be available by 2015.

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| Aug 06, 2015

@Mohit, all your questions have answers under the section "How dengue fever can be prevented?"

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| Aug 06, 2015

Few qs: a. can the mosquito that carried the virus and spreads it be identified? b. Are there any specific times in the day when the bite is more common. c. Will having children wear full sleeves shirts and trousers help prevent the bite. d. is there a vaccine that can help prevent. thanks so much!

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| Aug 06, 2015

Few qs:can the mosquito that carried the virus and spreads it be identified? Are there any specific times in the day when the bite is more common. Will

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| Oct 02, 2014

WoW that was intense information. Thank for sharing. Will keep in mind ????

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| Sep 19, 2013

Do these mosquitoes bites on any specific part of our body? Do they bite on face?

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| Sep 19, 2013

Thanks for sharing..

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| Sep 11, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

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| Sep 10, 2013

That initial patient is not the first bite of mosquito, The Mosquito is alreay carrying Dengue Virus

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| Aug 03, 2013

Thanks for the info. I understood that dengue is caused if a mosquito that has bitten an affected person bites some other person. But how does the initial person get dengue (without mosquito bite)?

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