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Dengue Fever

The virus is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. There must be a person-to-mosquito-to-another-person pathway.

Dengue fever is a disease caused by dengue virus. Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) is also known as backbone fever. Dengue was first recognized in the 1780s simultaneously in Asia, Africa and North America and is found in some 100 countries around the world.  Antibodies to dengue viruses have occasionally been reported in individuals in Pakistan, but the frequency of occurrence of dengue infection in Pakistan is unclear. The first confirmed dengue hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Pakistan occurred in 1994. This article is intended to let the readers know as to how it spreads and what are its causes and prevention.

How is Dengue fever contracted?

The virus is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. The mosquito flourishes during rainy seasons but can breed in water-filled flower pots, plastic bags, and cans year-round. One mosquito bite can inflict the disease.

The virus is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person. There must be  a person-to-mosquito-to-another-person pathway.

What are dengue fever symptoms and signs?

After being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, the incubation period ranges from 3 to 15 (usually five to eight) days before the signs and symptoms of dengue appear. Dengue starts with chills, , headache, pain upon moving the eyes, and low headache. Painful aching in the legs and joints occurs during the first hours of illness. The temperature rises quickly as high as 104 F (40 C), with relative low heart rate and low blood pressure .The eyes become reddened. A flushing or pale pink rash comes over the face and then disappears. The 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 the fever and spreads from the extremities to cover the entire body except the face. The palms and soles may be bright red and swollen.

How can dengue fever be prevented?

The prevention of dengue requires control or eradication of the mosquitoes carrying the virus that causes dengue. In nations plagued by dengue fever, people are urged to empty stagnant water from old tires, trash cans, and flower pots. Governmental initiatives to decrease mosquitoes also help to keep the disease in check but have been poorly effective.

To prevent mosquito bites, wear long pants and long sleeves. For personal protection, use mosquito repellant sprays that contain DEET when visiting places where dengue is 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 or other dwellings, especially in urban areas.

By: Dr Muhammad Mahmood Alam

 

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