A viral disease with no specific treatment

Dengue is caused by infection with a virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  Dengue causes a wide spectrum of symptoms. This can range from no symptoms at all to severe flu like illness. Although less common, some people develop severe dengue, which can lead to a number of complications associated with severe bleeding.

Dengue is normally found in tropical climates but is rapidly spreading to new areas, including Europe. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries. Dengue frequently occurs in explosive outbreaks that put significant stress on healthcare infrastructure, with low-resource countries struggling to diagnose and treat patients. Lack of access to diagnostic tests that are practical for use in low-resource settings is a frequent issue, as symptoms of Dengue are not very specific.



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What causes Dengue Fever

Dengue a viral disease, spread by several species of female mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, principally Aedes aegypti. This mosquito, also called the yellow fever mosquito, is a mosquito that can spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro and yellow fever viruses among other. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on its legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the upper surface of its thorax.

Dengue fever virus is an RNA virus of the family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus. The virus has five serotypes. Infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications.

Humans are the primary host of the virus, but it also circulates in nonhuman primates.

Photo: Aedes aegypti mosquito

Where is Dengue found

Dengue can exist anywhere that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes live. Dengue has become a global problem since World War II and is common in more than 140 countries. The most significant dengue epidemics in recent years have occurred in Southeast Asia, the Americas and the Western Pacific.

As the world’s climate becomes warmer, the mosquito’s distribution has increased significantly in the past decades. It is considered to be among the most widespread mosquito species.

Infections are most commonly acquired urban environments. Increased mobility of people has increased the number of epidemics and circulating viruses.

Image: Geographical distribution of Dengue

What are the symptoms of Dengue Fever

80% of people infected with dengue virus are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as fever. Typical symptoms of dengue are sudden-onset fever, headache, nausea, muscle and joint pains and skin rash.

Others have more severe illness and in a small proportion it is life-threatening. Re-infection with a different strain of dengue virus places people at risk of dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. Dengue can occasionally affect several other body systems and cause neurological symptoms, infection of the heart or liver failure. Severe disease is also more common in babies and young children.

How can Dengue Fever be prevented

Controlling mosquito populations is the main way to prevent and reduce dengue. This includes source reduction, pesticide spraying for larval control and fumigation for adult control, and/or the use of mosquito traps.

Wear long-sleeved clothing and long trousers when outdoors.

Use mosquito netting over the bed if the bedroom is not air conditioned or screened, and for additional protection, treat the mosquito netting with the insecticide permethrin.

A partially effective vaccine has been available since 2016.

How is Dengue Fever diagnosed

The diagnosis of dengue is typically made based on symptoms in endemic areas. However, early disease can be difficult to differentiate from other viral infections. The earliest change detectable in laboratory investigations is a low white blood cell count, which may then be followed by low platelets and metabolic acidosis.

Dengue can be detected by Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, such as the ones made available by the WoIDM. The PCR tests are more accurate than antigen detection.

How is Dengue Fever treated

There are no specific antiviral drugs for dengue. Treatment depends on symptoms and maintaining proper fluid balance. Paracetamol is used for fever and discomfort. Intramuscular injections and arterial punctures should be avoided, to minimize the risk of bleeding. Blood transfusions can be required in people presenting with unstable vital signs.

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