November 18, 2005

What is dengue fever? What is dengue hemorrhagic fever?

Dengue fever is a flu-like viral disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal, complication of dengue fever.

What is the infectious agent that causes dengue? {{more}}

Dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever are caused by any of four serotypes of dengue family of viruses. Infection with one virus does not protect a person against infection with another. Therefore, each person can contract dengue fever four times in a lifetime.

How is dengue spread?

Dengue is spread by the bite of an Aedes mosquito. The mosquito transmits the disease by biting an infected person and then biting someone else.

Where is dengue found?

The mosquitoes that transmit dengue live among humans and breed in discarded tyres, flower pots, old oil drums, and water storage containers close to human dwellings. Unlike the mosquitoes that cause malaria, dengue mosquitoes bite during the day.

What are the signs and symptoms of dengue?

Dengue fever usually starts suddenly with a high fever, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, and muscle and joint pain. The severity of the joint pain has given dengue the name “break bone fever.” Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are common. A rash usually appears 3 to 4 days after the start of the fever. The illness can last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take as long as a month. Older children and adults are usually sicker than young children.

What is the treatment for dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever?

There is no specific treatment for dengue, neither is there a vaccine to prevent it. Persons with dengue fever should rest and drink plenty of fluids. They should be kept away from mosquitoes for the protection of others. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is treated by replacing lost fluids. Some patients need transfusions to control bleeding.

What are the factors that support the spread of Dengue in our societies?

• Rapid growth of cities in tropical countries has led to overcrowding, urban decay, and substandard sanitation, allowing more mosquitoes to live closer to more people.

• The increase in non-biodegradable plastic packaging and discarded tyres is creating new breeding sites for mosquitoes.

• The widespread misuse of flower pots, water vases and buckets to root plants.

• Improper storage of rain water.

• Next week: How can dengue be prevented?