Dengue fever, also called ‘break-bone fever’ is caused by a virus attacking the body’s cells. It gets into the human through the bite of the Aedes mosquitoes.
Someone affected will then experience two or more of the following symptoms:
- Sudden high fever around 40°C/104°F
- flu-like symptoms
- severe headache
- pain behind the eyes
- pain in joints and muscles
- nausea, vomiting
Most patients go through this for 2-7 days. It is a very uncomfortable state of being but not life threatening.
2-4% of cases however develop to the severe form of the disease, called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHS) or Dengue Shock Syndrom (DSS).
After the temperature decreases first to 38°C or below 3-7 days after the first wave of symptoms
- abdominal pain
- persistent vomiting, including vomiting of blood
- difficulty to breath, fatigue and stress, restlessness
- red spots on skin
- bleeding gums
- uncontrolled bleeding
can occur accompanied with the signs of a shock.
What to do – family members and close ones
As the severe form of the disease occurs a couple of days after the fever disappeared it is very important to observe the patient and watch out for the symptoms of DHF or DSS (see above) – consult a doctor if they appear or the condition worsens! It is highly recommended to visit a hospital after two symptoms of DHF or DSS have occur, mainly abdominal pain and persistent vomiting. When bleeding occurs the disease might have developed quite far already!
However most patients can be treated at home if they don’t develop the dangerous forms of dengue fever.
The patient needs lots of fluids as much as enough rest. Normal diet should be taken if possible, oily and spicy things however avoided. Food should be easy digestible.
You can give an appropriate dosage of Paracetamol (not more than 4 times a day) for the pain according to age and weight of patient.
Don’t give Aspirin, Brufen or Ibuprofen as they increase the risk of bleeding.
Blood transfusion for dengue patients
Most cases one hears about nowadays are related to dengue patients who required blood transfusion. This is necessary when Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever of the shock syndrome are what the patient is suffering from.
The hematocrit (amount of red blood cells in relation to the whole volume of blood) and/or the number of platelets are dangerously low when the severe forms of dengue fever occur. The patient then should be admitted to a hospital, watched for a period of several hours with hourly check ups and test for the level of those blood components. If they both fall below a critical level blood transfusion must be considered.
If Prophylactic Platelet transfusion can prevent the symptomatic bleeding when it is given prior to its start is still discussed among experts. Once the bleeding has started and a big volume of blood is lost the need for transfusion is comprehensible
Who is at risk of catching dengue fever?
Almost half of the world’s population is living in the epidemic area of dengue fever. It can affect infant, children and adults equally.
For 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) published the following occurrence:
So far there is no vaccination previously to prevent and also no drug to treat dengue fever after one caught it. The cause is a virus who uses humans as a host. It reproduces itself and destroys the cells of the body.
Although only humans can get affected the only way of spreading the virus is the sting of the Aedes mosquito. Therefore
- Mosquito breeding places must be destroyed and avoided. They use accumulated water (such as containers) and in general unhygienic conditions. So empty and clean your water storage regularly, cover it when filled. Watch your home for any stagnant water – air coolers, buckets, even dishes after washing and small hollows filled with water can be dangerous. Pay special attention in the rainy season!
- Avoid mosquito bites. Use coils, repellents, window nets, long sleeves and other ways to keep the insects away from you. As the transmitting mosquito usually bites during daytime sleeping under a net doesn’t solve the problem.
- If you take care of someone suffering from dengue fever prevent that mosquitoes can reach him or her – by biting they will catch the virus from the patient and might give it to someone else!
Some Municipal Corporations have taken action in preventing dengue fever by destroying the mosquitoes breeding places. Inspectors visited construction sites and households, removed critical objects, informed about the danger of accumulated water and advised citizens. This has been carried out it Mumbai and Pune.
The Center for Diseases Control explains why it is so difficult to get rid of the mosquito.
Find extensive and quite technical ‘Guidelines’ for handling Dengue fever concerning prevention, transmission and treatment in our Ressource section.