Dengue fever is a tropical disease caused by the dengue virus, and it spreads by mosquitoes. Dengue virus is a painful mosquito-borne disease related to a family of viruses that cause yellow fever and West Nile infection. Each year, there are over 390 million dengue infections. 96 million lead to severe illness. Tropical areas are most affected with significant risks occurring in the following areas:
- Southern China
- The Indian subcontinent
- The Pacific Islands
- Southeast Asia
- The Caribbean (except Cuba and the Cayman Islands)
- Central and South America (except Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina)
The tropics and subtropics are the areas most prevalent with Dengue. Dengue fever has an acute phase of the illness characterized by fever and muscle pain that lasts between 1 to 2 weeks. In December 2015, the first vaccine became available for the dengue-endemic areas in Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines.
Symptoms of dengue fever
Anyone can contract dengue fever, but people with compromised immune systems are more likely to be infected. It is believed that dengue fever can attack you more than one time since it can be caused by five different serotypes. Once an individual is infected, the onset of the disease is sudden with symptoms such as:
- muscle and joint pains
- swollen lymph nodes
- rash a few days after the fever begins
- minor bleeding (at an advanced stage, hemorrhaging)
In some cases, the bleeding can take the most serious form of dengue hemorrhagic fever. This is very serious and is considered life threatening as it can lead to an even more severe condition, dengue shock syndrome. Dengue shock syndrome occurs when the patient’s blood has difficulty clotting and is on very low pressure. Dengue fever is prevalent in tropical regions and especially during the wet seasons in mosquito infested areas.
Dengue fever treatment
Dengue fever has no known treatment currently. What the patients receive is acetaminophen to ease the pain and fever. Patients are also prescribed a period of bed rest to help with the recovery. The bleeding can be worsened by aspirin and NSAIDS such as naproxen and ibuprofen, so they should not be used to ease any of the symptoms.
An attack of dengue fever usually leaves one with a lifetime’s immunity to the type of virus by which you fell ill. This virus has four main types, so one attack of the disease leaves you protected only from the one virus that attacked you. The other types can still affect you, and you can have dengue fever again.
How to avoid dengue fever
Dengue is not spread directly from person to person. Rather, the virus spreads by mosquito bites. Dengue primarily afflicts tropical areas so it’s important to invest in mosquito repellants and proper protection when visiting traveling to high-risk countries. Avoid catching the fever through mosquito bites by:
- Avoid being in open and dark places in the early hours of the morning and just before nightfall as these are the hours when the dengue-spreading mosquito (Aedes) is most active.
- Use a mosquito net over your bed when sleeping. Also, use treated nets on doorways and windows
- Use mosquito repellants in rooms where you live
- Cover yourself as much as possible: wear long sleeves and long pants
- Wear clothing of light colors as mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors
Dengue fever in Hawaii
Since the dengue fever outbreak of 2011 in Oahu, the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) has not known of locally acquired gangue fever in Hawaii until recently in November 2015. Dengue is not common in Hawaii but is often brought onto the island by foreigners. This current outbreak of locally acquired dengue is under investigation by the HDOH.
The total case count as of January 2016 was 242. Out of the total, 217 of these are residents of Hawaii and the rest are visitors. Persons under the age of 18 contribute over 45 cases. Only two of all these cases are still potentially infectious to mosquitoes. The North Kona and South Kona are the only areas that have been declared high-risk areas by the HDOH. Since Thursday 28th January 2016, no new cases have been detected.