Break-bone dengue fever is back! Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention

  • 17 months ago
3 minute read.
Break-bone dengue fever is back! Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention

Dengue fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus) that originated in Asian forests. Dengue can cause light to high fever and flu-like symptoms. Severe forms of dengue DHF (dengue hemorrhagic fever) and DSS (dengue shock syndrome) can even lead to severe bleeding, sudden drop in blood pressure, and death.

Tropical and subtropical populations, in more than 125 countries are at a high risk of getting the disease and it is spreading to other areas, including local Europe and some parts of the United States. Can you swallow the fact that 390 million infections are caused solely by the dengue virus every year (globally)!

Watch out for these symptoms

Just like any other infection, people might not experience any signs or symptoms of the dengue infection and many individuals may mistake it for other ailments like flu.

According to WHO, “Dengue fever usually occurs after an incubation period of 4-10 days after the bite of the infected mosquito” and the recovery period varies from 2- 7 days.

Common Dengue fever symptoms:

  • High fever (40°C/104°F)
  • Headache
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Muscle, bone, or joint pain
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Skin rash

Severe Dengue: Low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage

A patient enters acute dengue phase generally about 3-7 days after illness onset. During this time, the fever starts dropping below 38°C/100°F, and warning signs associated with severe dengue can become more obvious.

A dangerous characteristic of high dengue fever is plasma leakage. It is the most serious complication that distinguishes between dengue and severe dengue. Plasma leakage occurs due to increased capillary permeability i.e plasma leaks from blood vessels and surrounds the tissues. Excessive plasma loss can result in respiratory problems, hypovolemic shock, fluid accumulation, skin bleeding, and lethal gastrointestinal bleeding.

According to a study, “About 80 to 90 percent of patients with dengue will have platelet levels below 100,000 while 10 to 20 percent of patients will see critically low levels of 20,000 or less. In such cases, they are likely to be admitted to the hospital and receive platelet transfusions to prevent the possibility of internal bleeding.”

Warning signs that should not be ignored:

  • Dreadful abdominal pain
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Gum bleeding
  • Fatigue/Extreme exhaustion
  • Restlessness
  • Visible blood in vomit

If patients show these symptoms during the severe dengue mode, close monitoring is required for the next 24-48 hours to ensure that adequate medical care is provided to avoid complications and the risk of death.

Dengue fever diagnosis: Common tests

Here are some tests recommended to diagnose dengue:

Name of the test

What is it for?

When should one go for this test?

Dengue NS1 Antigen 

This is a blood test to check for the dengue virus in the initial stage of the infection. 

It should be done in the first five days

Immunoglobulin M (IgM) 

This test looks for IgM antibodies in the blood that appears in the early stages of the severe dengue infection

If you are manifesting symptoms of dengue for more than a week or 10 days

Dengue RNA PCR test 

This test is used to diagnose infection in the next stage of the disease because the level of IgG in the blood increases eventually.

After a week or after 15 days because antibodies can be detected even after months from the initial infection.

Additional tests:

  • CBC (Complete blood count)
  • Platelet count
  • Clotting Profile

To learn more about the dengue tests and their limitations (if any), contact a doctor on The Wellness Corner to decide thoughtfully which one you should be going for.

How is dengue fever treated?

There is no cure for dengue fever. If your doctor thinks you have mild dengue fever, they will advise you to rest, take pain relievers such as paracetamol or acetaminophen (do not take aspirin), and drink plenty of fluids. If you have more severe symptoms, such as vomiting or severe abdominal pain, you should see a doctor.

Can dengue fever be prevented?

If you live or travel in an area where dengue fever is evident, avoid mosquito bites by adhering to the following stated tips:

  • Use a mosquito repellent with 20-30% DEET.
  • When outdoors, wear long-sleeved clothes especially at night.
  • Remove stagnant water that may contain rainwater.

Click here to read more: How can you protect yourself from dengue before the bite?

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