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Updated on December 3, 2019

DENGUE FEVER: WHAT IS IT?

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne virus infection caused by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito with its characteristic white stripes on its black body.

The incubation period (known as the time from being infected by mosquito bite to onset of symptoms) may be between 3-14 days (average 4-7 days). Most people affected with dengue have symptoms such as high fever and mild aches which recover within 4-7 days. However, around 5% get more serious symptoms which may be life-threatening and require hospitalisation. The infection can result in a reduction in blood platelets thereby causing the body to bleed (hence the term dengue haemorrhage fever).

Mild symptoms

  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Skin rash (which blanches on pressure using your hand)
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting (more than 3 times a day)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fluid accumulation with breathing difficulty
  • Nose or gum bleeding
  • Gut bleeding
  • Drowsy (due to brain swelling)
  • Lethargic and feeling tired (due to bleeding or low blood pressure)
  • Abnormal liver function causing tender liver
  • Reduced urine output
  • Petechiae (small dot haemorrhages on the skin)

Treatment

There is NO specific anti-viral medication for dengue. Treatment is supportive and is aimed at:

  • Maintaining adequate fluid balance (ideally fruit juice, barley or isotonic drinks such as 100-plus)
  • Making sure the patient is able to pass urine (normally should be 4-6 times daily)
  • Having adequate bed rest to help the body recover
  • Tepid sponging helps to make the patient feel more comfortable
  • Taking Paracetamol for fever and muscle aches (AVOID aspirin or NSAIDs such as Nurofen as this may aggravate risk of bleeding)
  • Avoid massage or cupping on the body

If the patient has evidence of bleeding, low platelets count, feeling dehydrated or weak, he/she should be admitted to hospital for close observation and daily blood tests to monitor the situation because the clinical profile may change from day to day.  The patient may need:

  • Intravenous hydration
  • Platelet or blood transfusion if there is anaemia or very low platelets in the body

Prevention

  • Look for breeding places around the house and eliminate them
  • Have the patient rest under mosquito net to prevent spread to other members of the family
  • Report to the authorities so that fogging can be done around your housing area

Blood Test

Blood test looking for antibodies produced by the body against the dengue virus remains the most reliable way to diagnose dengue fever. Your doctor can perform the blood tests for dengue diagnosis and to check your blood and platelet level as well as kidney and liver function tests. These tests may need to be taken several times to monitor the disease progression. See your doctor asap if you suspect you may have dengue fever.

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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