Dengue fever is certainly not a new disease especially in countries with hot and tropical climates. Most dengue fever occur in Asia as it represents 70% of the global disease for dengue. However, parts of America and Africa contribute to a high number of dengue cases throughout the year. It is estimated that 100-400 million infections with 40 000 deaths are recorded annually. Dengue cases steadily increased year by year as a result of many factors including urbanisation, population growth, global trade and climate changes.
Dengue disease was restricted to a few Southeast Asian countries back in the 50’s to 60’s but the dengue epidemic began in the 70’s and continues to spread to the whole world up until now. It is estimated that 33 million dengue cases occur in India each year contributing to a third of the total global dengue burden. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has proposed reducing the death related to dengue by 50% by the year of 2020 but it seems like there is still more to do to reach this judging by the current statistics. Latest number in 2022 shows almost 100 recorded deaths due to dengue. Remember, this number may not represent the true nature of the disease as dengue itself may not manifest any symptoms and people may not be reaching for medical advice as they do not know they are infected by dengue.
Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus which is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. Do you know that only females and infected ones are able to do this? A mosquito is said to be infected when it bites a human with dengue virus circulating in the human body. The infected mosquito bites other humans when taking blood as their food and spreads the dengue virus into the human body. Dengue fever is a fastest viral infection through mosquito-borne disease. The way dengue virus is spread and the capability of the mosquito to carry and transmit the virus throughout its lifetime explains why dengue fever will continue to be around.
A person infected with dengue virus may not show any symptoms or have mild symptoms. In fact, 80% of the population exposed to dengue virus do not have any symptoms or in simple terms, asymptomatic. Dengue fever is usually suspected when a person has high grade fever that lasts for 2 to 7 days and other symptoms include headaches with pain behind the eyes (retro orbital headache), muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia), vomiting, nausea and skin rash. Since symptoms may be mistaken as other harmless medical conditions, it is best for a person presented with any dengue symptom to get checked for dengue infection. Furthermore, the nature of the disease may cause a person to think they are alright as the dengue symptoms tend to disappear on the 3rd to 7th days but this in fact the most critical phase as most people will fall into severe dengue. Critical phase lasts for 24 to 48 hours and it is safe for patients with dengue to get monitored by healthcare professionals so that they can get immediate medical support should there be any possible life-threatening event.
Since dengue symptoms are not enough to be evident of a dengue, dengue test is often needed to help establish the diagnosis of dengue fever. Common dengue tests include antigen test such as NS1 rapid test kit and serologic test such as IgM and/or IgG antibodies detection. The cost for dengue test in India ranges from Rs. 300 to 1200. This will depend on what kind of dengue test is required. Usually, a rapid test kit will be done to detect dengue infection. NS1 rapid test kit is usually provided to detect early infections in the 5 days after the first dengue symptoms are detected. Rapid test of IgM and/or IgG antibody test is usually done for all patients suspected of dengue despite the status of the previous dengue infection. Beside rapid tests, specific laboratory tests such as ELISA test may be used if rapid tests are unable to confirm dengue infection. Rapid tests often are the first test preferred as it is more affordable and easier to be done without much pain to patients. However, remember to follow all doctor’s advice and have discussion with your doctor if you are reluctant to get a dengue test.
In essence, it is important to get checked for dengue whenever there are any dengue symptoms. There is no cure for dengue but treatment available helps to support patients and alleviate symptoms. Treatment ranges from ensuring patients hydration level optimal by drinking plenty of fluid, fluid replacement therapy and analgesic medication such as paracetamol. In severe cases, blood transfusion might be needed. To be hospitalised for a day or two or allowed to stay at home with home remedies depends on the stage of the dengue case. Prevention is indeed the best way to protect one from dengue infection. Here are ways you can minimise dengue infection and protect those vulnerable to dengue such as young children and elderly:
1- Collect unwanted containers and properly dispose of solid waste that could hold water.
2- Covering the water storage when not in use.
3- Emptying and cleaning water storage containers on a weekly basis.
4- Use insecticides in water storage especially outdoor containers. Add larvicides according to the recommended dose as stated on the product labels.
5- Use aerosol insect repellent, mosquito coils and electric vapour mats.
6- Use mosquito nets when taking naps or rest in daytime.
7- Use special medicated lotions.
8- Wear long-sleeved clothes and long dresses or bottoms to cover the whole body.