Dengue fever

About dengue fever

Dengue fever is a debilitating viral disease transmitted by mosquitos, not between humans. In extreme cases, it can cause severe pain in the bones, which is why it is sometimes referred to as ‘breakbone fever’.

Where does dengue fever occur?

Every year, around 100 million cases of dengue fever are reported in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, mainly in Asia, Africa and South America.

What are the dengue fever symptoms?

In its milder format, dengue fever symptoms start showing within the first week of infection. They can include:

  • high temperature
  • flu symptoms
  • bad headache
  • joint and muscle pain
  • stomach ache
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • skin rash

In its most severe format, dengue fever symptoms can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, which can result in death, although this is extremely unlikely.

What causes dengue fever?

There are four different dengue fever viruses transmitted between humans and mosquitos. A mosquito will contract the virus if it bites an infected human and then passes the virus on to the next human it bites.

How do you prevent dengue fever?

If you are travelling to areas of high exposure, there are precautions you can take to avoid becoming the next victim.

  1. Stop mosquitos in their paths
    In a country prone to pests, there’s no shortage of products to prevent mosquito bites.
    • Apply insect repellent to both skin and clothing (eg permethrin). The most effective repellants contain DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide)1
    • Apply permethrin to your bedding
    • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
    • Use insecticide-treated mosquito nets
    • If available, turn on the air conditioning and close any window screens
    • Destroy mosquito breeding grounds
  2. Mosquitos that carry dengue fever breed in stagnant water in and around your home, usually in contained areas such as pots, buckets and tarpaulins. Ensure you empty or throw out such containers regularly to reduce the risks. If you have containers in your home or garden, make sure they are undercover and in a dry area.

  3. Take extra care during mosquito happy hour
    Unlike most mosquitos, happy hour–or hours–for the dengue fever carrying mosquito is during the day. Don’t make the mistake of applying repellant at dusk. If you plan to spend the day outdoors, wear long, loose-fitting clothing and insect repellent when you get up.

How do you treat dengue fever?

Normally, dengue fever will dissipate within two weeks of contracting the disease, severe cases might last longer and require hospital treatment to replenish lost fluids.

There is no cure or vaccine for the virus, but it’s important to inform your healthcare professional if you begin to display dengue fever symptoms. Medical treatment will help manage any discomfort and reduce the risk of complications.

Sources:
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Dengue_fever?open
http://www.health.qld.gov.au/dengue/prevent/home.asp

1 CDC Health Information for International Travel 2010 G Brunette (Ed)Pg 323

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