What is Dengue Fever?
Viruses cause most of the diseases that exist on our earth and one of them is dengue. Dengue fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes to the people and is commonly caused by flavivirus. Dengue fever is characterised by temperature that is usually high up to 104° F to 106° F, associated with severe joint pains, headache as well as skin rash. Dengue fever is also known as the break-bone disease since it exhibits severe joint pain. Occurring mostly in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, millions of people get affected with this dengue fever every year.
What Causes Dengue Fever?
There are four different dengue viruses that are spread by the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that usually transmit the dengue virus into the human bodies and are lodging around the human dwellings are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The dengue viruses belong to the Flaviviridae family with a RNA strand as its genetic makeup and require both the mosquitoes and the human beings to complete its life cycle. When a human being has a high number of viruses in his or her blood and the mosquito bites them, the mosquito gets infected with the dengue virus. The dengue virus can infect the mosquitoes from other sources as well and the mosquito remains infected for the entire lifetime. As the mosquito with this dengue infection bites you, you will be infected with dengue fever. By the time dengue fever starts to disappear, it would mean that the body has developed immunity against the particular serotype of the virus, but it does not mean that you have achieved immunity against the rest of the three serotypes of this virus. Since there are enough antigenic differences between them, there are chances that you might get affected with dengue more than once.
Pathophysiology of Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is caused by four different viruses from the same Flaviviridae family with serotypes DENV-1 through DEN-4 that are closely related but are antigenically distinct. The virus is transmitted to the human bodies by the Aedes mosquito species that play the role of a vector and is not affected by the virus. The female mosquitoes of this species are daytime feeders and generally bite at the back of the neck and on the ankles. They are easily disturbed during their blood meal and move to another person, making them vectors. Hence, in a same family, it is often seen to develop the dengue infection within a period of 24 to 36 hours, presumably infected by the same mosquito.
Dengue Fever: Within 3 to 7 days, the symptoms occur in the infected person and the fever lasts for around 7 to 10 days, with a complete recovery in many cases. The temperature reaches up to 106° F. The fever is more frequent in children. It is seen that the fever disappears in a day or two and recurs and; hence is termed the saddleback fever.
Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever: It is a rare case in which the fever is characterised by a plasma leakage. In severe and extreme cases, circulatory failure occurs, leading to death within 8 to 24 hours.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Dengue Fever?
After a mosquito carrying the dengue virus bites a person, who is previously unexposed to that virus, the signs and symptoms of dengue fever start to develop in the patient within 3 to 15 days. There are chances that in mild cases of dengue fever, there are no signs and symptoms at all in the patient; but in most cases, there are a few common symptoms of dengue fever such as:
- High fever with temperature rising up to 106° F.
- Severe bone, muscle and joint pains is a characteristic feature of dengue fever.
- Widespread rashes throughout the body.
- Pain behind the eyes.
- Vomiting and nausea is experienced in dengue fever.
- Swollen lymph nodes can also be seen in dengue fever.
In most cases these dengue fever symptoms disappear within a week from treatment. Some serious symptoms of dengue fever include:
- Heavy bleeding from mouth and nose.
- Bleeding under the skin.
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Lung, heart and liver problems.
- Persistent problems of vomiting.
The problem of bleeding in dengue fever is associated with the reason that the blood vessels get damaged in this disease and also the platelets that play the role and responsibility of forming blood clots to prevent bleeding, significantly drop in numbers in dengue fever. Hence, bleeding becomes a persistent problem in dengue fever. This condition is called the DSS or the dengue shock syndrome.
Dengue Fever: Epidemiology, Prognosis and Survival Rate
More than 520 million people are seen to have been affected with dengue fever worldwide. But, the occurrence of dengue fever is maximum in the tropical and subtropical regions of countries and very rare in developed countries, such as UK and USA. The Indian subcontinent, China, South East Asia, Mexico and the rest of South and Central America, as well as the African countries with hot and humid climate and dense population have the maximum number of cases of dengue.
Around half a million people need hospitalization worldwide, due to severity of the condition. However, if adequate treatment is provided, dengue fever is not a fatal disease with a fatality rate of less than 1%. Although, approximately 25,000 people die of dengue fever throughout the world every year, it’s because the treatment is delayed or the right treatment is not provided.
How is Dengue Fever Diagnosed?
The general diagnostic tests for dengue fever are:
- Blood and coagulation tests to check for the dengue virus and its type.
- Examining the patient clinically to check the signs and symptoms of dengue fever.
- Checking blood pressure and doing chest x-ray to look if there are any chances of dengue hemorrhagic fever.
What is the Treatment for Dengue Fever?
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever, as this is a viral condition. Dengue fever runs its course and subsides. Symptomatic treatment is done to relieve the symptoms of dengue fever. The doctor prescribes some medicines to reduce the pain. It is also important to drink lot of fluids. Rest is important in dengue fever to make sure that there is no worsening of the condition. Even after the temperature in dengue fever starts to fall down, the worsening feeling of dengue starts to recur and hospitalization is needed to prevent and manage dengue shock syndrome and dengue haemorrhagic fever from occurring. Hospitalization may be needed in severe cases where the patient is given intravenous fluids.
How to Prevent Dengue Fever?
The general prevention methods for the dengue vector mosquitoes are:
- Managing the environment and eliminating the favourable atmosphere for the dengue mosquitoes to thrive.
- Cleaning water logging and covering water storage containers helps in preventing mosquito breeding and preventing dengue fever.
- Disposing solid wastes helps in preventing dengue fever.
- Using mosquito nets and wearing full sleeved and covered clothes.
- Using insecticides, mosquito repelling coils and liquids to prevent dengue fever.
Home Remedy: Management of Dengue Fever with Papaya Leaves
Patients always try to seek for home remedies to cope with the tremendous amount of pain, platelet counts dropping radically and also the fever rising up to high temperature in dengue fever. In such a case, one home remedy that is found to be extremely useful in various case studies of dengue fever is to use the juice of raw papaya leaves.
Although there has been no scientific proof to this alternative management and home remedy for dengue fever, many researches and case studies have shown to help the platelet count to rise radically within a day of using the juice of papaya leaves. Only the leafy part of the papaya leaves, without the stems are recommended to be pounded and strained through a cloth filter and swallowed after every meal. Each of the papaya leaves generally give one tablespoon of the juice and two tablespoon of the papaya juice in each time is recommended to be given to the patient with dengue fever. It is to be kept in mind that the papaya juice is not boiled or cooked or even come in contact with hot water, as it will lose its strength.
With proper treatment started at the right time Dengue Fever is not a difficult and complex disease that cannot be coped with. With preventive measures, Dengue Fever can well be avoided. However, in case Dengue Fever occurs, treatment, care and home remedies can cure the disease soon.
- World Health Organization (WHO) – Dengue and Severe Dengue: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Dengue: https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/index.html
- Mayo Clinic – Dengue Fever: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20353078
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – Dengue Fever: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/dengue-fever