Dengue Fever Epidemic

An outbreak of dengue fever has recently become a threatening disease in Asia and in fact around the world and it is believed that as it gets worse it will be difficult to get under control.

Unfortunately, there are no definite treatments to put a stop to this painful disease, except for a general approach on preventative measures and by controlling the vector (carrier) mosquitoes.

Dengue fever is a rapidly growing, mosquito–borne disease caused by dengue virus, related to the viruses that cause yellow fever. There are four kinds of dengue virus that are mainly spread by Aedes aegypti mosquito that originated in Africa and now is widespread in Asia, the Pacific islands, and South America. The virus is transmitted into a human when he is bitten by an infected mosquito, which has received the infection while stinging another infected person.

Since 1970, more than 100 countries have experienced dengue fever outbreaks and nearly 40% of the world population is at risk to dengue fever, where most of them come from tropical and sub tropical areas such as Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean (except Cuba and Cayman Islands), and other Pacific countries. Most recently dengue epidemic has struck in Puerto Rico where nearly 4000 of dengue fever cases have been reported and six people have died from it. And now this painful disease has increased at a rate of 59 percent over October 2011 as it continues to spread through India.  The infection has also spread into America with 28 of its states being at risk. To date, most cases occur in people who got infected by dengue mosquito when outside of North America.

Symptoms of dengue fever include unexpected occurrence of high fever accompanied with painful headaches. You may also feel severe joint and muscle aches and pain. Feeling nauseated and vomiting has also been reported. These symptoms can occur mildly and are often mistaken for flu or cold; it’s important to seek medical advice if any of these warning signs show up for proper diagnosis.

Prevention is the key to acquiring the disease. Protect yourself from dengue fever by avoiding being bitten by infected mosquitoes. You can do so by using mosquito repellent both indoors and outdoors, wearing full covering clothing when you are out and making sure that windows and door screens are fully functional. Particularly if you are living in tropical areas that are prone to dengue outbreaks, it is best to use mosquito nets while sleeping and avoid going out after sunset as much as possible.

But the best way to get rid of this nuisance permanently is to take adequate steps to keep the mosquito population down. Destroy any potential places where mosquito can breed such as old tires and containers that can collect rain water. One can also breed fishes like Gambusia in water tanks as they feed on the mosquito larvae and help us destroy their existence.

The http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/ outlines the following best preventative measures when it comes to this disease:

  • preventing mosquitoes from accessing egg-laying habitats by environmental management and modification;
  • disposing of solid waste properly and removing artificial man-made habitats;
  • covering, emptying and cleaning of domestic water storage containers on a weekly basis;
  • applying appropriate insecticides to water storage outdoor containers;
  • using of personal household protection such as window screens, long-sleeved clothes, insecticide treated materials, coils and vaporizers;
  • improving community participation and mobilsation for sustained vector control;
  • applying insecticides as space spraying during outbreaks as one of the emergency vector control measures;
  • active monitoring and surveillance of vectors should be carried out to determine effectiveness of control interventions.

Dengue should be suspected when a high fever (40°C/ 104°F) is accompanied by two of the following symptoms: severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands or rash. Symptoms usually last for 2–7 days, after an incubation period of 4–10 days after the bite from an infected mosquito.

Severe dengue is a potentially deadly complication due to plasma leaking, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleeding, or organ impairment. Warning signs occur 3–7 days after the first symptoms in conjunction with a decrease in temperature (below 38°C/ 100°F) and include: severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness, blood in vomit. The next 24–48 hours of the critical stage can be lethal; proper medical care is needed to avoid complications and risk of death.

If one of your family members gets infected, protect him, other members as well as yourself from getting bitten from infected mosquitoes and of course, seek treatments as soon as possible. Maintenance of the patient's body fluid volume is critical to severe dengue care.

There are no specific medications and vaccines to treat dengue fever. But certain precautions can prevent the conditions from getting worse. For example, avoid medicines with aspirins as it can worsen any bleeding. You should also have plenty of rest and drink lots of water at frequent intervals.

Being an epidemic disease, a serious effort is needed to prevent any outbreak of dengue fever and eradicate it worldwide from its roots. Scientists are conducting thorough researches to develop effective medicines and vaccine against dengue. If not controlled, more death will occur in the future, spreading this destructive disease.

By Liya Das

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