The Causes and Symptoms of Dengue

November 12, 2012

The Causes and Symptoms of Dengue

Probably most people are not familiar with dengue simply because it is so rare in the United States. If you live in the very southern most parts of the U.S. you might encounter it however, dengue would be more common with tourists who have traveled or are coming from tropical parts of the world. The symptoms of dengue are flu-like in nature and you get it by being bitten by mosquitoes that carry the virus. There is no cure for this viral disease but it does respond to certain treatments and the fever can be fatal but rarely so.

Dengue is actually spread by the Aedes mosquito by biting an infected person and then biting someone else thereby passing the virus from one human to another. The dengue virus is not a single virus but rather a whole family of related viruses. So, if you get bitten by a mosquito carrying one virus, this doesn’t provide immunity for bites you receive from mosquitoes carrying a related virus. Generally speaking, you don’t need to worry about dengue viruses in the U.S. however, if you travel to Africa, Asia, Australia and/or the Pacific you are at great risk. This family of viruses is said to be most common in the cities but rarely found at high elevations. Common breeding grounds are found around human establishments were you have old tires, flower pots and anything that can hold water that becomes stagnant. You should also be aware the mosquitoes that carry this virus are known to bite during the day.

The symptoms of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever start abruptly. A sudden excessive fever occurs followed by a rash, major headache, eye ache along with muscle and joint pain. Many people also experience stomach upset and possible vomiting which brings about a loss of appetite. Often the symptoms of dengue subside after ten days but can continue for a month or so. Normally, symptoms of dengue viral infections are not life threatening but for a small percentage of people it can turn into hemorrhagic fever which can become deadly. Hemorrhagic refers to blood leaking from capillaries and in particular from the nose, mouth and gums. This calls for immediate medical attention to prevent shock. Keep in mind that the hallmark symptoms of dengue hemorrhagic fever are bleeding noses, mouths and gums.

If you suspect you have become infected with the dengue virus, your doctor can take a blood sample and test you for it. If you have it, there is no specific treatment administered. However, you should drink a lot of water and other fluids, keep warm and rest and this should ease symptoms of dengue. Other than that, you will have to weather through it.

Currently, there is no vaccine to protect you against dengue virus so all you can do is try to avoid the mosquitoes as best you can. If you are traveling in southern areas or tropical areas outside the U.S. there are some precautions you can take. First off, buy some good quality mosquito repellent and douse you and your cloths in it. It’s best if you are covered with clothing from head to toe. When indoors, make sure all screens are intact and closed. If necessary, hang bed nets to keep yourself mosquito free when your sleeping. Make sure you don’t have any standing water around the place your are staying. If so, dump it. Bird baths are okay so long as the water is changed on a regular basis.

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