Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is an infectious disease, more than 100 million cases worldwide reported each year. The infection is caused by one of four types of dengue viruses (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4), which is carried by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes acquire the virus, while feeding on the blood of an infected person. After an incubation period of eight to ten days, the infected mosquito is capable of transmitting the virus to susceptible individuals for the rest of its life.

Once a victim is bitten, the virus travels through the body’s glands. In the glands, it multiplies and can enter the bloodstream. Various symptoms will develop. The disease sometimes called “break-bone” fever, because it can cause severe joint and muscle pain, which feels like bones are breaking. Getting infected by one type of dengue virus does not protect against other types. Actually, getting a second dengue infection, particularly type two, leads to an even worse infection, referred to as Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever or Dengue Shock Syndrome. The disease is not transmitted from one person to another, unless through sharing blood contaminated needles. First reported epidemics of dengue fever occurred in 1779 – 1780, in Asia, Africa, and North America. Within areas of rainy season, in tropical or subtropical locations such as Africa, Southeast Asia and China, India, Middle East, Caribbean and Central & South America, and Australia (south and Central Pacific), are known to attract those mosquitoes carrying this disease. In 2001, more than 609,000 reported cases of dengue in the United States. The disease has a three percent mortality rate, and untreated the mortality rate increases to fifty percent.

Symptoms of dengue fever start within five to six days, after being bitten by infected mosquito. Victims may experience: High fever (above 105 degrees Fahrenheit), sever headaches, sever join and muscle pain, retro-orbital (behind the eye) pain, nausea, vomiting, often enlargement of the liver, and developing a rash. The rash appears, over most of the body within three to four days, after the fever begins. Also, rash consists of small red bumps that begin on the arms and legs, but then spread to the back, abdomen, and chest. The soles of the feet and palms of the hands, also turn red and swell. Worse symptoms can develop, referred to dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which is frequently fatal. Related dengue symptoms include: Bleeding from the nose, gums or under the skin, causing purplish bruises. Also, damage to blood and lymph vessels. Dengue fever has been linked to shock syndrome in the most severe cases, usually occurs in children (sometimes adults). Those patients experience fluids leaking outside of blood vessels, massive bleeding, and shock (very low blood pressure), known sometimes to cause death. A health care provider or physician familiar with this disease, can verify their findings, by doing two blood tests (two to three weeks apart), which detects for antibodies in the virus, and knowledgeable of the typical signs and symptoms.

Most people that suffer from dengue fever will likely recover within two weeks. However, some may go through several weeks or months of feeling tired and/or depressed.

There is no specific treatment except receiving plenty of bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking medicine to reduce fever. Worst situation, patients going into shock or coma, requires emergency treatment, which includes providing intravenous fluids and platelet transfusion.

Preventive methods to avoid dengue virus includes: Wearing protective long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks and shoes, whenever outdoors. Use mosquito repellent, containing ‘DEET,’ picaridn or oil of lemon eucalptus. Most prevalent times mosquitos are active, during early morning hours or before daybreak and late afternoon before dark. Those times precautions should be taken to avoid being bitten. Also, keep windows screened, keep doors closed, repair damage to any screen windows, remove or get rid of standing water in flower pots, containers, birdbaths where mosquitos can breed, and protect pets from bring any mosquitoes inside your home. Also, application of insecticides prevents larval habitats. In the Philippines, the month of June is observed as Dengue Fever Awareness Month, which reminds the public about dengue fever, during onset of the rainy season, when outbreaks of this disease is most prevalent. The public is advised to take preventive measures.

In May 2006, Environment protection officials reminded the public to take precautions against the outbreak of dengue fever. The main objective is to eliminate the breeding areas of the mosquitoes. According to the National Center of Disease Prevention and Control, June (2006) is declared as Dengue Awareness Month to observe preventive measures.

Several dengue vaccines are being developed and hopefully will be approved in the future by the Food and Drug Administration, in the next few years. The challenge to develop a vaccination will prevent any of the four different types of viruses causing dengue fever. In 2002, the Swiss pharma company Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development board created the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. Included in their research, developing anti-viral drug for the treatment or prevention of dengue fever. In 2003, the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative was created, aiming to accelerate the development and introduction of dengue vaccine, should be affordable and accessible to poor children in endemic countries.

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