What is Dengue Fever? Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Dengue is the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. Dengue is also known as Break Bone fever.

Victims of dengue often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain, hence the name, slaves in the West Indies who contracted dengue were said to have ‘dandy fever’ because of their postures and gait.

Dengue can affect anyone but tends to be more severe in people with compromised immune systems. Because it is caused by one of four serotypes of virus, it is possible to get dengue fever multiple times.

However an attack of dengue produces immunity for a lifetime to that particular serotype to which the patient was exposed.

The viruses are transmitted through infected Aedes mosquitoes. This mosquito is a tropical and subtropical species widely distributed around the world.

The immature stages are found in water-filled habitats, mostly in artificial containers closely associated with human dwellings and often indoors.

What is Dengue Fever

Signs and Symptoms of the Disease:

• After being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, the incubation period ranges from three to 15 (usually five to eight) days before the signs and symptoms of dengue appear in stages.

• Dengue starts with chills, headache, pain upon moving the eyes, and lower back pain.

• Aches in legs and joints occur during the first hours of illness

• Temperature rises quickly as high as 104 degree Fahrenheit (40 degrees Centigrade), with relatively low heart rate (bradycardia) and low blood pressure.

• Eyes become reddened.

• Flushing or pale pink rash comes over the face and then disappears.

• Glands (lymph nodes) in the neck and groin are often swollen.

• Fever and other signs of dengue last for two to four days, followed by a rapid drop in body temperature with profuse sweating. This precedes a period with normal temperature and a sense of well-being that lasts about a day.

• A second rapid rise in temperature follows. A characteristic rash appears along with fever and spreads from extremities to cover the entire body except face.

• Palms and soles may be bright red and swollen.

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever:

Dengue Hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a specific syndrome that tends to affect children under 10 years of age. It is a more severe form of the viral illness.

DHF starts abruptly. There are respiratory and intestinal symptoms with sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Shock occurs two to six days after the start of symptoms with sudden collapse, cool clammy extremities, weak pulse, and blueness around the mouth. Other symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Evidence of hemorrhage in the body. Petechiae (small red or purple splotches or blisters under the skin), bleeding in the nose or gums, black stools, or easy bruising are all possible signs of hemorrhage.

This form of dengue fever can be life-threatening and can progress to the most severe form of illness, Dengue Shock Syndrome.

Treatment for Dengue Fever:

Because dengue is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms. Rest and fluid intake for adequate hydration is important.

Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision because of the possibility of worsening bleeding complications Paracetamol may be given for severe headache and for joint and muscle pain (myalgia).


Typical dengue is fatal in less than 1 per cent of cases. The acute phase of illness with fever and myalgia lasts for about one to two weeks. Convalescence is accompanied by a feeling of weakness (asthenia), and full recovery often takes several weeks.

Tips to Prevent Dengue Fever:

Transmission of dengue virus to mosquitoes must be interrupted to prevent the illness. To this end, patients are kept under mosquito netting until the second bout of fever is over and they are no longer contagious.

Also Read: Homemade Remedies for Fever in Children

Prevention of dengue requires control or eradication of virus carrying mosquitoes. People should be urged to empty stagnant water from old tyres, trash cans, and flower pots. Governmental initiatives to decrease mosquitoes also help to keep the disease in check.

To prevent mosquito bites, were long pants and long sleeves. For personal protection, use mosquito repellent sprays that contain DEET when visiting places where dengue is endemic.

There are no specific risk factors for contracting dengue fever, except living in or travelling to an area where the mosquitoes and virus are endemic.

Limiting exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding standing water and staying indoors two hours after sunrise and before sunset will help.

The aedes aegypti mosquito is a daytime biter with peak periods of biting around sunrise and sunset. It may bite at any time of the day and is often hidden inside homes of other dwellings, especially in urban areas.

There are currently no vaccinations available for dengue fever. There is a vaccine undergoing clinical trials, but it is too early to tell if it will be safe or effective. Early results of clinical trials show that the vaccine may be available by 2015.

SOURCE: B-Positive Health Magazine

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