Dengue fever is certainly not a new disease especially in our country. Dengue fever is a commonly spotted disease in the South-East Asia country. It is estimated that 100-400 million infections occur throughout the year. In Malaysia alone, there is an increase of more than 200% dengue cases in the first 2 months of 2023 alone with at least 15 deaths related to dengue infections. Dengue fever has a tendency to peak around May to September during the dry southwest and November to March of rainy northeast monsoon seasons. As a matter of fact, this year which is 2023 is predicted to be the peak of major outbreaks for dengue fever.
Dengue fever as we may already know is caused by the dengue virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The primary mosquito responsible for carrying the virus is mostly female mosquitoes from species Aedes aegypti. Uninfected mosquito can be infected with the virus when it bites a person who already has the dengue virus in the body. The virus then infected the mosquitoes and when these infected mosquitoes bite other humans, the virus is then released. Once a mosquito is infected with the virus, it is able to carry the virus and transmit to other people for the rest of its life. This ongoing cycle makes dengue the fastest spreading viral diseases caused by mosquito-borne diseases.
Surprisingly, 80% of people with dengue infection have mild infection or no symptoms at all (asymptomatic). Since symptoms may or may not be exhibited by a person, knowing any of the symptoms can actually raise suspicion for dengue fever and enable a person suspected with the dengue to be checked by a doctor immediately. Before knowing the symptoms, you may wonder how long it takes for a person to display symptoms of dengue. Well, it will take around 4 to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Dengue symptoms may resemble symptoms of flu.
Common symptoms include fever that lasts for 2 to 7 days, muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia), vomiting, nausea, skin rash and headaches associated with pain behind the eyes (retro-orbital headaches). It is important to take note that these symptoms may seem to disappear during the critical phase which is on the 3rd to 7th days of the disease. Critical phase lasts for 24 to 48 hours. The importance of knowing the critical phase is to ensure that the patient is treated well and not left untreated as to leave the patient untreated may actually result in severe dengue and even death. Critical phase often starts as the body temperature drops and symptoms go away but honestly this is actually the start of a catastrophe. Hence, when a person has any symptoms of dengue fever, he or she should get checked by a doctor immediately so that dengue infection can be detected early and treatment can be provided by a healthcare professional.
Beside knowing the symptoms of dengue fever, it is essential to know warning signs. When a person is spotted with any of the warning signs, the patient should immediately and promptly be brought to the emergency room as this may be a life-threatening event. Warning signs include sudden severe pain in the stomach or abdomen, vomiting more than 3 times in 24 hours, presence of blood in stool, vomiting blood, sudden bleeding gums or nose, feeling extra tired, breathing difficulty, restlessness and easily irritated. Warning signs are often associated with severe dengue and when left untreated can definitely lead to complications.
The main aim for treatment in patients with dengue fever is to help reduce the symptoms causing patient feeling discomfort and to help patient overcome the critical phase since there is no specific treatment for dengue. Mild dengue cases might just need to rest at home, keep themselves hydrated and seek doctor advices. Symptoms such as fever and pain can be reduced with uses of paracetamol or acetaminophen. Avoid using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen as painkillers because it may alleviate risk of bleeding by blood thinning. In severe dengue cases, hospitalisation is required for physicians to observe the symptoms and giving extra medical care to help patients survive. Hospitalisation may be needed for those in critical phase for doctors to make observations and be prepared if patient conditions become worse. This helps patients to receive immediate medical treatment.
The best way to avoid yourself from getting dengue is to take preventive measures such as wearing long sleeved and pants to cover skin from mosquito bites, using mosquito repellent in your room such as aerosol spray or mosquito repellent coils, using special medicated lotion to prevent mosquito bites and making sure objects or container free from holding stagnant water that can be the main medium for mosquito to breed and grow. If possible, avoid living in crowded areas or heavily populated areas.