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Disease at a Glance: Dengue

Dengue (or Dengue Fever) is a condition caused by a virus that spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito – the disease typically develops 3-5 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Dengue doesn’t spread directly from one person to another. When a mosquito bites a person with dengue, the virus enters the mosquito. And when this mosquito bites another person, the virus enters that person's bloodstream and causes dengue.

 

Symptoms include high fever, severe headache & pain at the back of the eye, muscle ache or myalgia, skin rash & spots, nausea & vomiting, fatigue & lethargy, etc. The disease is difficult to diagnose in the initial phase because the symptoms overlap with flu and other viral illnesses. If you think you may have contracted dengue, see a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and management of the symptoms reduces the risk of complications.

 

Common Symptoms

High fever
Severe headache & pain at the back of the eye
Muscle ache 
Skin rash & spots
Nausea & vomiting
Fatigue & lethargy

 

Diagnosis happens through a physical examination; blood tests may also be required. Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment for dengue. Nor is there any preventive vaccine. Patients are usually advised to take rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Medication is prescribed for symptomatic relief (to bring down fever and reduce aches & pains).

 

Most people recover from dengue within 2-3 weeks. Sometimes, however,  the condition may worsen and become life threatening. This is called dengue hemorrhagic fever, which leads to bleeding from the nose, gums or under the skin and difficulty in breathing. Patients may also develop extremely low blood pressure. This is a serious condition and requires intensive medical care. 

 

Government of India's Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has come out with list of do’s and don’t for managing dengue. This says if you suspect dengue, watch carefully for the next few days as the disease can rapidly become very serious. Complications usually appear between the third and fifth day of illness, so it is important to monitor carefully even if the fever disappears.

 

Consult a doctor if the following symptoms appear:  red spots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, vomiting with blood, black stool, abdominal pain, excessive thirst, pale, cold or clammy skin or difficulty in breathing. And DO NOT take Aspirin or Brufen as it may cause severe bleeding

 

To prevent dengue it is important to keep mosquitos from breeding. Ensure the water in bowls, vases, utensils and other storage equipment are changed frequently. While going out, wear protective clothing and apply a mosquito repelling cream or gel. As they say in medical lingo, it’s better to prevent a disease than to treat it!

 

 References:

1. World Health Organization (www.who.int)
2. National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (www.nvbdcp.gov.in)
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov)
4. US National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov)
5. Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org)

 

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