Understanding Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever is caused by a Virus transmitted through certain mosquito bites. The presence of 'Dengue Triad' - fever, rash and headache/body ache is the characteristic trait of Dengue. Dengue cannot be treated by antibiotics as it is viral fever and treatment is generally symptomatic. The acute phase of fever can last about one or two weeks. Prevention of Dengue requires thorough mosquito eradication from environment. There is no vaccine available for dengue.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue Fever is an outbreak affecting tropical countries which is caused by virus transmitted through mosquito bites.

What are the symptoms of Dengue Fever?

After being bitten by the mosquito carrying Dengue Virus (DENV) the symptoms generally take 3 to 15 days to appear.

The symptoms onset can be sudden and generally appear as -

Chills

Headache

Pain upon rolling eyes

Low backache

Pain in limbs

Rapid increase in temperature as high as 104oC

Reddening of eyes

Rash appear on body extremities

Fever and signs generally drop after 2-4 days after onset and then appear again with the second episode of viral fever.

A more severe form of Dengue is the Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. This is accompanied by all symptoms of Dengue and the following conditions as well:

Significant damage to blood vessels and lymph

Decrease in the platelet count of the blood

Bleeding from gums, nose, mouth

Bleeding under the skin which looks like bruising

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever is very serious and a worsened condition may cause death.

Dengue Shock Syndrome is a very critical condition where the patient's condition deteriorates as the pulse drops and there is sudden circulatory failure.

Is Dengue Fever contagious?

Dengue fever is not contagious and cannot be contracted from one person to another person through air, sharing food, clothes etc. It spreads from Dengue Patient - Mosquito Bite- Healthy Individual pathway.

How is Dengue Fever treated?

Dengue fever is caused by a Virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. It is treated with symptomatic relief medicines like Antipyretics, pain-relievers and nonsteroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs under Doctors supervision.

Which mosquito is responsible for causing Dengue?

Dengue Virus is contracted from bite of mosquito Aedes aegypti which has previously bitten an infected person.

This mosquito can breeds in rainy season and is commonly found in water (even fresh water) collected in pots, cans, flower beds, dessert coolers etc.

What precautions are necessary for Dengue fever?

Dengue spreads through mosquito bites. To stop the transmission from one patient to other individual, it is necessary that a patient of Dengue be kept under mosquito nettings until second bout of fever is over.

Mosquito eradication is necessary indoors as well in neighborhood and spraying of mosquito repellant is necessary.

Arms and legs should be covered with fill sleeves and leggings during an outbreak in the city. Moreover, mosquito repellant sprays and lotions should be used liberally on all exposed parts.

Aedes mosquito is a daytime biter (it may bite anytime of the day) with peak episodes during sunrise and sunset so remaining indoors and using mosquito repellant during this hour is important.

Which tests are done to diagnose and confirm Dengue?

To evaluate Dengue Fever, the doctor checks for signs and symptoms. Besides, this diagnostic test for Dengue Virus and Platelet count is performed through a blood test.

PCR Test: Molecular Test-It can detect Dengue in the initial phases and the results are obtained within a day. It is considered most accurate. Cost of the test from a private center can be up to Rs 5000/- (may vary within city/centers).

ELISA Test: Although, this test is not considered as accurate as PCR but the results are generally obtained within a few hours and may cost up to Rs 2000/- in private centers/- (may vary within city/centers).

Rapid Chromatographic Test: This test is considered least accurate but handy. Results can be obtained within few minutes and it costs within Rs 600/- to Rs 1200/- in private centers /- (may vary within city/centers).

Platelets Count Test: This blood test is essential to find out the concentration of platelets in the blood. Platelet count test is not a confirmatory test but useful if patient has other symptoms of dengue. As there are several viruses which can also cause similar symptoms with reduction in platelets count in blood. Platelet Count Test is used more to monitor the status of the patient if the other tests dengue diagnose and confirm Dengue Fever. The test cost a Rs 100-200/- in private centers but may vary from city to centers.

What are Platelets?

Platelet is a component of blood which prevents bleeding and helps in formation of clot. Normal platelets count in human body is between 1.5 lakh and 4 lakh. In patients with Dengue, it drops to/ between 50,000 to one lakh.

What is the criterion for hospitalization?

Doctor may evaluate the patient's condition and immediately consider hospitalization, if the following conditions appear:

Increasing Hematocrit

Platelet count less than 100,000mm3

Any spontaneous bleeding

Any warning sign for shocks and symptoms

What are the critical follow-up considerations to be ensured for patient's wellbeing?

It is essential that the patient's caregiver ensures that all of these mentioned points are followed-up upon by the Doctor/Hospital/Nurse attendant:

Frequent check on platelet count, hematocrit levels and blood pressure

Adequate hydration (not excessive), IV fluids if necessary

Monitoring of patient's general well-being

Dengue outbreak is on the rise in the Indian sub-continent, this post rainy season. It is important that one should be well-informed about this disease and take necessary precautions to avoid serious health implications to self and family. You should identify good Doctors, private/government diagnostic centers and hospital within the neighborhood for quick access during time of need.

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