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Dengue Fever


Table of Contents

  1. What is dengue ?
  2. How can it be recognised ?
  3. What causes dengue ?
  4. How can it be prevented ?
  5. What to do if dengue occurs ?
  6. What to do when recovering from dengue ?

What is dengue ?

Otherwise also known as breakbone or dandy or haemorrhagic fever (especially in South-East Asia where this variety is  commonly found), it is a viral disease caused by the biting of Aedes mosquito. The various names describing its manifestations in quite graphic detail as the condition is accompanied by severe pain which feels like the body bones are beings broken and/or bleeding resulting in redness of the eyes, flushing or blotching of the skin and blood in stools apart from fever which has a classical pattern.

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How can it be recognised ?

The fever begins suddenly and is usually very high. It is accompanied by chills and severe aching of the head, back, arms and legs. These may be accompanied by sore throat and uninterested in getting out of the bed and feeling depressed. There may also be redness of the eyes and skin.
The fever lasts for around 3 to 4 days and is typically, though not always, followed by a period of few hours to 2 days without any fever. The redness of the skin typically increases during the stage when the patient is free from fever or when the fever again returns which lasts for 1 to 2 days and is usually accompanied by similar but unusually milder manifestations than in the first phase.
The most distinguishing feature of this condition are the red rashes that appear usually first in the back of the hands and top of the feet, gradually spreading on to the legs, body and neck, but rarely to the face, although the eyes may be red. The rash may last for 2 hours to several days and may be followed by peeling off of the blotched parts of the skin. Apart from the accompanying bodyaches and typical temperature graph (pictured below), there is little to distinguish it from malaria, yellow fever or even influenza.

Dengue Fever Chart

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What causes dengue ?

The disease is caused by a virus and is transmitted by the bite of Aedes mosquito. It occurs only in the active mosquito season, particularly after the rains - the Aedes mosquito grow in freshly accumulated water. The ever may occur at any time between 3 to 15 days, but usually between 5 to 8 days after the mosquito bite. The mosquito typically bites in exposed parts of the hands and feet particularly at dusk.

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How can it be prevented ?

Just after the rains start, it is strongly advisable to keep all fresh water areas, including puddles on the street, drained and dry. All persons, especially  children, must war full sleeve clothing and keep their legs fully covered. All exposed areas should be either kept covered or else mosquito repellents applied so that mosquitoes do not have any chance of biting there. Such precautions are to be compulsorily observed from 4 p.m. onwards till the sun fully sets and it is dark. However, use of mosquito screens and repellents at all times are advisable since the time when dengue mostly occurs is also the time for malaria which are caused by the bites of a different variety of mosquitoes and infection is from a parasite rather than a virus, it still presents with similar complaints and sometimes is indistinguishable unless further investigations are carried out. The treatment is also different.

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What to do if  dengue occurs ?

If the condition occurs, the patient should properly examined by their doctor without delay. Besides a regular blood tests, a special test is carried out to determine beyond all reasonable doubts that the fever is indeed caused by the responsible virus.
Usually the treatment is according to the complaints - medication to control fever and bodyaches, but if there is bleeding then proper blood transfusion (usually of a special type) has to be given apart from intravenous fluids.

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What to do when recovering from dengue ?

It is vital to remember that recovery is slow and one has to be patient. It is most imperative to follow the directions given by the treating doctor closely and to follow the precautions as have mentioned been above.

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Compiled from various sources by Dr. S. B. Bhattacharyya.
Copyright [SUDISA]. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 09, 1999.