Dengue fever is a viral disease caused by any of the four dengue viruses transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common transmitter of the disease is the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Although symptoms during the first encounter with the disease are usually mild, repeat infection may be more serious.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that dengue affects more than 100 million people worldwide each year. Many cases of dengue occur in tropical and subtropical areas, usually during the rainy season where the dengue-carrying mosquitoes have many potential breeding places.
A more severe form of dengue infection, called dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), can be fatal if not recognized and treated promptly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), DHF causes death in about 22, 000 people each year, mostly children.
Dengue fever can be caused by any of the dengue virus types: the DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, or the DENV 4. A person may be able to become immune to one of the dengue virus once infected. However, the person can contract the disease caused by the other virus types.
The condition is most commonly transmitted through the bite of a mosquito infected with a dengue virus. In some rare cases, the condition may be transmitted through organ transplantations or blood transfusions when the organ or blood is infected with the virus. Sometimes an infected pregnant mother may also infect the unborn fetus.
Symptoms of the typical (classic) dengue commonly start within 4 – 7 after you’ve been bitten by the infected mosquito and usually lasts anywhere between 3 – 10 days. Symptoms may include:
• High fever
• Joint and muscle pain
• Body malaise (general feeling of being unwell)
• Pain behind the eyes
You should seek medical help if you or someone in your family experience:
• Severe pain in the abdomen
• Severe vomiting
• Vomiting with blood
• Bleeding in the nose or gums or bruising with no apparent reason
• Difficulty in breathing
Most people with classic dengue fever recover within 2 weeks that does not require special medical treatment. Health experts, however, recommend that you get enough bed rest and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Your doctor may recommend acetaminophen or other safe over-the-counter medications to help relieve symptoms of pain. The CDC, however, advises people who have the disease not to take aspirin or aspirin-containing drugs.
IF DHF has been recognized early, it can be effectively treated using fluid replacement therapy. Most often, people with DHF need hospitalization.
Experts recommend that people who are infected with the virus should avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes while they still have fever.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dengue. Accessed on October 29, 2010.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Dengue Fever. Accessed on October 29, 2010.
World Health Organization (WHO). Impact of Dengue. Accessed on October 29, 2010.