Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection that has become a major public health concern in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. This guide provides essential information about dengue fever, its symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus, which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. There are four distinct, but closely related, serotypes of the dengue virus (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4). Infection with one serotype provides lifelong immunity to that serotype but not to the others, which means a person can be infected with dengue up to four times.

Dengue fever virus under an electron microscope

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

Symptoms of dengue fever usually appear 4-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:

  • High Fever: Sudden onset of high fever, often reaching 104°F (40°C).
  • Severe Headache: Intense headache, often behind the eyes.
  • Pain: Severe muscle and joint pain, earning it the nickname "breakbone fever."
  • Rash: A rash that can appear a few days after the fever begins.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Fatigue: General fatigue and malaise.
  • Mild Bleeding: Symptoms such as nosebleeds, gum bleeding, or easy bruising.

Severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of severe dengue include severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, and blood in vomit or stool.

Infographic of Dengue fever symptoms

Transmission of Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is primarily spread through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes. These mosquitoes typically bite during the day, with peak periods early in the morning and before dusk. Dengue is not spread directly from person to person but can be transmitted through:

  • Blood Transfusions: Receiving blood from an infected donor.
  • Organ Transplants: Receiving organs from an infected donor.
  • Vertical Transmission: From a pregnant mother to her baby during childbirth.

Diagnosing Dengue Fever

Diagnosis of dengue fever is based on symptoms, recent travel history, and laboratory tests. Common diagnostic tests include:

  • Blood Tests: To detect the presence of the dengue virus or antibodies.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): To monitor platelet levels and white blood cell count.

Preventing Dengue Fever

Prevention focuses on avoiding mosquito bites and reducing mosquito populations. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Avoid Mosquito Bites:

    • Use Insect Repellents: Apply repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535 to exposed skin.
    • Wear Protective Clothing: Long sleeves, long pants, and socks provide a physical barrier against mosquito bites.
    • Use Mosquito Nets: Sleep under insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to prevent bites while sleeping.
    • Stay Indoors During Peak Activity: Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Stay indoors or take precautions during these times.
  2. Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Sites:

    • Remove Standing Water: Empty and clean containers that collect water, such as flower pots, buckets, and bird baths.
    • Maintain Clean Surroundings: Keep your environment clean to reduce mosquito breeding sites.
    • Use Larvicides: In water storage containers to kill mosquito larvae.
  3. Community Efforts:

    • Participate in Community Clean-Up Campaigns: To eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
    • Support Local Health Authorities: In their efforts to control mosquito populations.
  4. Vaccination:

    • Dengue Vaccine: A dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) is available in some countries and is recommended for individuals who have had a previous dengue infection. Consult with healthcare providers for more information.
      Woman applying insect repellent spray to her skin to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

Treating Dengue Fever

There is no specific antiviral treatment for dengue fever. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing complications:

  • Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Pain Relief: Use acetaminophen (paracetamol) to reduce fever and pain. Avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, as they can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Rest: Get plenty of rest to help your body fight the infection.
  • Medical Care: In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for intravenous (IV) fluids, blood transfusions, and close monitoring.

Dengue Fever Conclusion

Dengue fever is a serious disease that poses a significant health risk in many parts of the world. By understanding the symptoms, transmission, and preventive measures, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from dengue fever. Stay informed, take necessary precautions, and seek medical advice if you suspect a dengue infection.

For more information on dengue fever prevention and treatment, consult your healthcare provider or visit reputable health websites such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).