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What is Dengue fever?
Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood. It can’t be spread directly from one person to another person.
Dengue fever facts
- Dengue fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes.
- Symptoms of dengue fever include severe joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever, exhaustion, and rash. The presence of fever, rash, and headache (the “dengue triad“) is characteristic of dengue fever.
- Dengue is prevalent throughout the tropics and subtropics.
- Dengue fever is caused by a virus, and there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue fever, the treatment is directed toward relief of the symptoms (symptomatic treatment).
- The acute phase of the illness with fever and muscle pain lasts about one to two weeks.
- Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a specific syndrome that tends to affect children under 10 years of age. This complication of dengue causes abdominal pain, hemorrhage (bleeding), and circulatory collapse (shock).
- The prevention of dengue fever requires control or eradication of the mosquitoes carrying the virus that causes dengue.
- A vaccine for dengue fever
Symptoms of Dengue fever
Many people, especially children and teens, may experience no signs or symptoms during a mild case of dengue fever. When symptoms do occur, they usually begin four to 10 days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito. Signs and symptoms of dengue fever most commonly include:
- Fever, as high as 106 F (41 C)
- Muscle, bone and joint pain
- Pain behind your eyes
You might also experience:
- Widespread rash
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rarely, minor bleeding from your gums or nose
Most people recover within a week or so. In some cases, symptoms worsen and can become life-threatening. Blood vessels often become damaged and leaky. And the number of clot-forming cells (platelets) in your bloodstream drops. This can cause:
- Bleeding from your nose and mouth
- Severe abdominal pain
- Persistent vomiting
- Bleeding under the skin, which might look like bruising
- Problems with your lungs, liver and heart
Causes of Dengue fever
There are four dengue viruses (DENV) that cause dengue fever, all of which are spread by a species of mosquito known as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and more rarely by the Aedes albopictus mosquito.
Aedes aegypti originated in Africa, but nowadays is found in all the tropical areas around the world; it prospers in and close to areas of human population.
The virus is transmitted from an infected mosquito to a human. A mosquito bites a person who is infected with the dengue virus; the virus is then passed on when someone else is bitten by the mosquito.
If you have suffered from dengue fever previously it is still possible to contract it again. If you were infected again and became ill, there is a greater risk of developing a harsher form of the disease.
Treatment for Dengue fever
- See a doctor immediately if you or anyone in your family have symptoms of dengue.
- Rest at home. Make sure you get enough to drink, even if you cannot eat.
- Avoid mosquito bites so you don’t spread the disease – use insect repellent and coils or plug-in mosquito repellent devices inside. Stay in a screened or air-conditioned room where possible.
- Have someone stay home to look after you.
- Use paracetamol (alone or with codeine) for pain. Don’t exceed the recommended dose.
- Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs – they increase the chance of bleeding.
Ring or visit your doctor if you get worse and experience any of the following:
- unable to drink
- unexpected bleeding or bruising
- severe abdominal pain or vomiting
- confusion, with restlessness or drowsiness
- collapse or signs of shock: pale, cold, clammy or blotchy skin; weak pulse
Some people with dengue need urgent hospital treatment for complications such as shock or haemorrhage. Deaths are rare in Australia.