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Dengue Fever: Common Questions Answered

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Dengue Fever: Common Questions Answered

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Dengue fever is a self-limiting mosquito-borne viral disease. Read to learn more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. K. Shobana

Published At August 22, 2017
Reviewed AtNovember 28, 2023


Mosquitoes are flying, blood-sucking insects that are frequently vectors, ingesting dangerous bacteria and transmitting them to recipients of subsequent bites. More than 2.5 billion people are susceptible to contracting dengue, and more than 400,000 people die from malaria each year. This indicates the enormous morbidity and mortality associated with mosquito-borne illnesses. The epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of a number of prevalent and newly developing mosquito-borne diseases, including chikungunya, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, West Nile, yellow fever, and Zika are continuously being researched.

Today, dengue is one of the most significant and rapidly spreading viral diseases spread by mosquitoes in the globe. Because of the potentially fatal consequences of a severe infection, dengue is a disease of significant public health concern. Clinical signs of dengue, a fever sickness, can range from infection with no symptoms to infection with severe multi-organ failure. This article goes into greater detail regarding dengue.

What Is Dengue Fever?

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral illness that belongs to the flavivirus genus. It is usually a self-limiting disease that may manifest as asymptomatic (without any symptoms) to severe signs and symptoms. A fever typically occurs three to seven days after the mosquito bite.

The Aedes mosquito is the primary dengue vector. It is also the main carrier of a number of human diseases, such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya. The Aedes mosquito breeds in stagnant water and bites daily, most often from 7 AM to 11 AM. It is primarily found in 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. Dengue fever is not contagious, meaning that it cannot spread from one person to another through physical contact like touching, speaking, or sharing personal items. The bite of a mosquito can only spread it. Therefore, efforts should be made to stop the breeding of mosquitoes by minimizing and preventing the stagnation of water. The use of mosquito repellents, bed nets, and full-sleeved clothing, may provide personal protection. Dengue fever outbreaks are often seen after the rains and peak from August to October. It is usually the time when it is adequate for the Aedes mosquito to breed.

What Are the Typical Clinical Symptoms of Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever commonly causes fever with body aches, which may be moderate to severe. It may present with flu-like symptoms, rashes, headache, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Due to the intensity of the muscular and joint pain and spasms, it is often referred to as breakbone fever, dandy fever, or seven-day fever. It may progress to severe dengue in some patients, presenting with abnormal bleeding tendencies such as mucosal bleeding and intracranial bleeding. Moreover, there are fewer reports of transmission of dengue fever to the developing fetus, when it occurs, it can bring about complications in pregnancy like fetal distress, premature delivery, and low birth weight.

How Can Dengue Be Diagnosed?

For the first five days of fever, dengue NS1 antigen test and dengue RT-PCR can be done. After five days, dengue IgM (Immunoglobulin M) and dengue IgG (Immunoglobulin G) are performed. Two antibodies namely, IgG and IgM, are detected in an antibody test taken for dengue fever. If the IgM antibody is positive and the IgG antibody is negative, then it denotes a recent dengue infection. In contrast, if IgG is positive and IgM is negative or positive, it indicates a past condition with dengue fever.

How Is Dengue Treated?

Since dengue fever is a viral disease, antibiotics are not effective in treating it and are not recommended. Dengue fever is a self-limiting infection, and the platelet count usually starts reducing on day three of the fever, and a spontaneous rising trend is noted from day six of the fever. Various other conditions are also present with flu-like symptoms or a low platelet count. For example, immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), and vitamin B12 deficiency. So, it is essential that they are differentiated and managed accordingly.

However, mild cases of dengue fever without severe warning signs can be managed at home. But, they must consult a physician and take proper advice. The general recommendation is to drink plenty of fluids, take a soft diet, and take Paracetamol tablets in case of fever. It is advised to avoid Aspirin and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

If under medical supervision if serious signs manifest, blood pressure and other vital parameters need to be often checked. Platelet count and hematocrit (PCV) values will be monitored among the laboratory parameters. In addition, the mean platelet volume and immature platelet fraction will also be regularly checked so that it may give a fair idea about the rise of platelet count.

How to Know if Dengue Is Serious and Needs Immediate Medical Attention?

Warning signs of dengue fever 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, one must visit a hospital immediately for further management.

Even though dengue fever may frequently be terribly painful, with the right care, it is rarely a fatal illness. There is a risk of death only when severe complications like dengue shock syndrome (DSS) and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) appear. Even these people may survive if they receive the right care.

How Can Dengue Be Prevented?

  • Mosquito Repellants: Mosquito repellants that contain Picaridin or DEET (diethyltoluamide or diethyl-methyl benzamide) are safe to use. Individuals should check the safety label before using a mosquito repellant. Repellents containing PMD (para-menthane-3,8-diol) or (OLE) oil of lemon eucalyptus are not recommended in children.

  • Vaccines: There have been extensive research and clinical trials for vaccines, and the preliminary reports are encouraging. At present, there are no such vaccines or approved antivirals available against dengue fever.

  • Recovering from Dengue Fever: Dengue fever has four serotypes DEN 1, DEN 2, DEN 3, and DEN 4. Although they are similar to each other, they do not provide cross-protection. Recovery from one type of dengue infection offers lifelong immunity, so there is always a risk of recurrence.


When an individual lives in endemic areas where dengue fever is prevalent, it is advised to take all precautionary measures to prevent the occurrence of dengue fever. Dengue fever can be best treated when treatment is sought at the correct time. If one experiences any symptoms of dengue fever, do reach out to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Also, preventing dengue fever is possible by eliminating and preventing mosquito breeding areas and avoiding mosquito bites.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which Is the Organ That Dengue Targets the Most?

The primary target of the immune-mediated response in dengue infection is the liver. Dengue causes hepatocyte apoptosis, hypoxic damage, liver perfusion dysfunction, fluid leakage, oxidative stress, and immune-mediated injury.


Which Is the Most Critical Day for Dengue Infection?

The patients enter the critical stage about 3 to 7 days after the onset. There is an additional critical phase that rapidly deteriorates the health after 24 to 48 hours of onset.


What Is the Common Complication Seen in Dengue Fever?

The most common complication of dengue is a hemorrhagic fever that can precipitate dengue shock characterized by low blood pressure, weak pulse, cold, clammy skin, and restlessness. This can cause severe internal bleeding, damage to internal organs, and, ultimately, death.


Which Is the Organism That Causes Dengue?

Dengue is primarily caused by the dengue virus (DENV) and is a vector-borne infection which means that the virus is transmitted by a mediator organism. In this case, Aedes mosquitoes act as vectors for viral transmission.


What Is the Need for LFT in Dengue?

LFT or liver function test determines the liver's health by measuring serum bilirubin, serum albumin ALT (alanine transaminase), and AST (aspartate transaminase) levels in the blood. Since the liver is the most commonly affected organ in dengue infections, the determination of liver health is essential to estimate the prognosis and dengue progression.


Is There a Vaccine Available Against Dengue?

A dengue vaccine (CYD-TDV) is the first vaccine in third-phase trials. The vaccine is recommended in a three-dose series (0-6-12), which means that the second and third doses are given six months and twelve months after the first dose.


How to Cure Dengue?

There is no cure for dengue; a management protocol is followed against the presenting symptoms.
- Paracetamol is prescribed against fever. Aspirin or Ibuprofen are contraindicated as they can increase the risk of dengue hemorrhage.
- Proper hydration.
- Rest.


When did Dengue begin?

Dengue first originated in monkeys and was restricted to Africa and Southeast Asia around 1000 years back. The viral infection spread to humans around 800 years back through infected mosquitos.


How Important Is Rest During Dengue?

Dengue brings high fever and constant body and joint pain. As with most viral infections, rest is one of the most important parts of the treatment protocol. Fatigue, lack of appetite, and body pain can make the patient extremely weak. The patient is advised complete bed rest to recover the lost strength and should also consume the recommended diet.


What Is the Reason for Itching in Dengue?

Dengue fever results in decreased extracellular fluid in the blood, and the skin enters recovery mode due to the wounds caused by rashes. Itching may also indicate the susceptibility of the vessels to the circulating cytokines. These factors result in pruritus or itching.


What Can Be Done to Recover Quickly From Dengue?

To quickly recover from dengue:
- Maintain the body’s hydration.
- Keep symptoms under control.
- Avoid drugs like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Naproxen, and Mefenamic acid.
- Prevent bleeding.
- Complete rest.
- Avoid raw, greasy, fatty, and spicy foods.


Is It Possible for Dengue to Cause Memory Loss?

Dengue has been reported to cause widespread neurological manifestations, like brachial neuritis and opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome. A Brazilian study reported short-term memory loss in persistent dengue symptoms.


What Is the Time-Span of Fever in Dengue?

Dengue fever develops after an incubation period of 4 to 10 days and usually lasts for 2 to 7 days. High-grade fevers over 104° F or 40° C are quite common and can be managed by antipyretics. The fever mimics the common flu and usually does not last more than a week. Unresolved fevers beyond a week may require hospitalization.


What Is the Consequence of Untreated Dengue?

Untreated dengue can result in the following:
- hock.
- Internal bleeding.
- Organ damage.
- Death.


Is Dengue a Self-Limiting Condition?

Dengue presents flu-like symptoms, and most cases resolve within a week. It is of utmost importance to seek medical attention if the symptoms do not regress after a week or worsen. Unattended and unresolved dengue can cause serious complications, including death.
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Dr. Pratyush Kumar
Dr. Pratyush Kumar

General Practitioner


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