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Dengue Fever: Common Questions Answered

Author: Dr. Pratyush Kumar - Infectious Diseases  

1. What is dengue fever?

It is a mosquito-borne viral illness which belongs to flavivirus genus. It is usually a self-limiting disease which may manifest as asymptomatic (without any symptoms) to severe dengue.

2. Can dengue fever recur?

Dengue fever has got four serotypes DEN 1, DEN 2, DEN 3, and DEN 4. Although they are similar to each other, they do not provide any cross-protection. Recovery from one type of dengue infection provides lifelong immunity to that particular serotype only. So, there is always a risk of recurrence.

3. Is the second attack of dengue fever more dangerous?

Yes, it has been observed that during a second attack, there is an exaggerated immune response, thus increasing the chances of a severe dengue.

4. What are the typical clinical symptoms?

Dengue fever commonly causes fever with body ache, which may be moderate to severe. That is why it is also called as 'breakbone fever.' It may present with flu-like symptoms along with rashes, headache, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some patients, it may progress to severe dengue presenting with abnormal bleeding tendencies.

5. How does it spread from one person to another?

It is a mosquito-borne viral illness, and the vector is the Aedes mosquito. A fever typically occurs, three to seven days after the mosquito bite.

6. How can we prevent the dengue infection?

As it is transmitted by mosquitoes, our efforts should be to stop the breeding of mosquitoes. Aedes mosquito breeds in stagnant water. So, we should try to minimize the stagnation of water. The use of mosquito repellents, bed nets, and full sleeved clothing, may provide personal protection.

7. Are there any anti-dengue drugs or vaccines?

No. At present, there are no such vaccines or approved antivirals available against dengue fever. There has been vast research and clinical trials for vaccines and the preliminary reports are encouraging.

8. How to increase the platelet count?

Dengue fever is a self-limiting infection, and the platelet count usually starts falling on day three of fever, and a spontaneous rising trend is noted from the day six of fever. There are various other conditions which also present with flu-like symptoms or a low platelet count. For example, immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), vitamin B12 deficiency, etc. So, it is important that they are differentiated and managed accordingly.

9. What are the tests to diagnose dengue fever?

For the first five days of fever, dengue NS1 antigen test and dengue RT-PCR can be done. After five days, dengue IgM and dengue IgG can be done.

10. Can dengue fever be managed at home?

Yes, mild cases of dengue fever without the warning signs can be managed at home. But, they must consult a physician and take proper advice. The general advice is to drink plenty of fluids, take a soft diet and paracetamol tablet in case of fever. Avoid Aspirin and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

11. What are the warning signs?

Warning signs are breathlessness, severe pain in the abdomen, persistent vomiting, abnormal bleeding, altered sensorium and a rapid fall in the platelet count. If any of these signs are present, you must visit a hospital immediately for further management.

12. How to monitor the progress?

Blood pressure and other vital parameters need to be often checked. Among the laboratory parameters, platelet count and hematocrit (PCV) values should frequently be monitored. The mean platelet volume and immature platelet fraction may give a fair idea about the rise of platelet count.

13. Are goat milk, papaya leaves, and kiwi fruit effective in increasing the platelet count?

Platelets increase on their own, and there is no scientific research data to support such claims. It is a myth.

14. Usually, when does the dengue outbreak occur?

Dengue fever outbreaks are often seen after the rains and peak from August to October.

15. What are the characteristic features of the Aedes mosquito?

The Aedes mosquito breeds in stagnant water and bites during the day, most often from 7 AM to 11 AM. It is mostly found in the urban areas, in and around human dwellings. It most commonly bites below the elbows and the knees. That is the reason full sleeved clothing is recommended.

For more information consult a dengue fever specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/internal-medicine-physician/dengue-fever

Image: Dengue Fever: Common Questions Answered Last reviewed at: 07.Sep.2018

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