Dengue Fever: All You Need To Know
Amidst COVID-19 where no other health concern worries us more, let’s brush up on our awareness about dengue fever as monsoon season lies ahead.
A study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research brings out that dengue fever puts 2.5 billion people at risk worldwide. Each year, 100 million new cases come forward, cites the journal. Dengue is a global health concern that feels forgotten amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. National Dengue Day is observed on 16th May each year.
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The Dengue Mosquito
Dengue is caused by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. According to the National Guidelines on dengue issued by the Government of India, it is mostly on-the-go during the day-time, and thus, you should be highly careful, especially in the day. The mosquito can breed anywhere around your household where water is collected. It can grow in water containers, reservoirs like lakes, water coolers, coconut shells, disposable cups, domestic junk, construction sites, tree holes, etc. The climatic conditions including rainfall and temperature play a vital role in the breeding of the mosquito.
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A common misconception about dengue is that the Aedes mosquito breeds only in dirty water. However, the concerning truth is that the mosquito is very capable of breeding in fresh-water, clean enough for drinking. All it needs is a puddle of stagnant water to grow, reports a 2018 study in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease.
Prevention is always better than cure, and in the case of dengue, this statement holds extremely true. We will discuss some easy ways to minimise the collection of water in and around our houses, later in this article.
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Symptoms of Dengue
A 2011 study published in the International Journal Of Infectious Diseases reported that dengue may cause the following symptoms:
1. High fever: Your body feels a sudden rise in temperature. You might feel that your body is getting heated and you have a high fever.
2. Severe pain: You may feel that your muscles and bones are paining severely, along with pain behind the eyes. You feel severe pain if you move your eyeballs. You also feel pain in the abdomen by itself, or especially when you touch it. Severe and prolonged/ongoing headache is a very common symptom of dengue present in most patients.
3. Weakness: You feel tired and weak, with no energy to perform easy tasks. You feel that you are too tired to move your body.
4. Getting chills: Chills (shivering) is the body’s way of producing heat when you are feeling cold. It is caused by rapid contraction and relaxation of muscles. Shivering predicts the onset of a fever or a rise in your body’s temperature. You feel the need to wear a blanket even if the room is at a high temperature. This might be another symptom of dengue, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Irritability: Dengue infection could affect the central nervous system of the body which means it could potentially have psychiatric manifestations during the course of disease such as anxiety, distress, and irritability, as per the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 2018.
6. Dizziness and nausea: Dengue causes loss of fluids in the body, which can further cause disorientation and nausea finds a study published in BioMed Research Journal in 2014. It is recommended to take oral rehydration salts and keep yourself hydrated to feel better.
7. Palpitations: This feels like your heart is beating too fast as if you might skip a heartbeat. There is no ‘calmness’ in your body and everything feels rushed.
8. Rashes: One of the defining characteristics of dengue fever is a rapid fall in platelet count. This reduction in platelet count can cause capillary dilation causing rashes on the neck and limbs, says an article in the APAC Journal of Tropical Medicine. These rashes are generally not a cause for concern and will disappear as the infection subsides.
9. Bleeding: If you notice bleeding from your nose, gums, blood in the stools, or in vomiting, it is a rather serious clinical implication of dengue fever. Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is the next level of complication in dengue and can be serious. Patients with comorbidities or high viral load are at higher risk of degrading to DHF. You may need to see a doctor if you notice that you’re bleeding.
10. Diarrhea: You may feel the need to go to the loo more than 3 times a day along with stomach pain.
11. Vomiting: Vomiting is another serious sign of dengue. According to a 2016 study published in the Tropical Medical Health Journal, dengue can be characterized if a peron vomits more than 3 times in just one hour, or 5 times in six hours. This pattern persists for two or more consecutive days.
12. Loss of appetite: You may not feel like eating anything and you feel hungry less often. Why? The loss of platelets in taste buds, dehydration and biochemical changes due to medication causes temporary loss of taste–leading to loss of appetite.
During or post-monsoon season, if you notice any of the common symptoms of dengue such as fever, extreme weakness, severe headache, abdominal pain, rashes, and depression, you should definitely consider seeing a doctor and getting checked for the infection. Even though these common symptoms are treatable at home, knowing if you have dengue or not will prepare you for any future complications. It would prepare you for any serious symptoms such as bleeding or low platelet count in the future, and you would be better able to take action. You should also get your periodic blood tests to check your vitals like platelet count etc. in order to avoid any complication.
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How To Prevent Dengue
Dengue can be efficiently avoided by taking some general precautions at the time of peak breeding months (July to November). Check out these tips given by All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS):
Prevent The Aedes Mosquito From Breeding
1. Make sure that there are no water containers or any area which can collect and store water in the house such as your balcony, garden area, etc. Hygienic surroundings are less likely to breed any type of mosquito including dengue. So stay clean and stay healthy!
2. See that the water emitted from air conditioners is not being collected or accumulated, making a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
3. Look out for the surroundings around your house. The mosquito is likely to breed in water sources such as stagnant water in drains, reservoirs, parks, etc. Contact your local authorities if you notice water getting collected anywhere near your house.
4. Keep the water tanks or containers tightly covered so that the mosquitoes cannot breed there.
5. If it is not possible to completely drain the water off from the room cooler, water tanks etc., it is advised to put about two tablespoons of petrol or kerosene oil into them for each 100 l of water. This prevents the mosquito from breeding. It is advised to repeat it every week.
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Prevent The Aedes Mosquito From Biting You
1. Make sure that you wear fully covered clothes whenever you go out of the house. Make sure that your feet, legs, arms are completely covered with full sleeves clothing, socks and shoes. Children should avoid wearing shorts and half-sleeve t-shirts.
2. You should apply a mosquito repellent cream on all the exposed parts of your body (keep away from eyes and mouth) whenever you go out of the house, and perhaps in the house too.
3. Try to shut down, or use wire mesh around windows and doors of the house to keep mosquitoes away.
4. Use an anti-mosquito net around your windows, or around your bed while sleeping.
5. Use insecticidal sprays on all the areas of your house atleast once a week.
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