Dengue Fever – A Tropical Disease Without Borders

Dengue fever is quite special – it is caused by four different viruses that are all transmitted by a particular type of mosquito. People have developed mild cases of dengue which causes rashes, high fever and sore joints and muscles. The severe forms – dengue shock syndrome and dengue hemorrhagic fever – can cause similar symptoms along with plummeting blood pressure, excessive bleeding and death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 100 million cases of dengue fever occur each year around the world. While some cases have cropped up in Hawaii, Texas and the borders of Mexico, this tropical disease is primarily found in tropical and sup-tropical areas of Africa, India, the Central and South Pacific regions, the Caribbean, South and Central America and Southeast Asia.

Cause of Dengue Fever

As mentioned above, there are four different viruses that can cause dengue fever and they are all spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. While many tropical diseases originate in rural areas, this particular one can be found in urban areas, even around clean water sources. The mosquitoes that carry the viruses thrive around populated areas.

The mosquito starts the cycle of infection by biting a person infected with dengue fever. The virus causing it courses through the bloodstream of the mosquito and is then injected into another person through the mosquito’s saliva when it bites another unsuspecting victim. As there are four different viruses that cause dengue, you could build some immunity to one after recovering from dengue fever only to catch the disease again when a different viral strain is injected via the mosquito bite.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

The virus from the mosquito usually takes up to a week to incubate and start displaying symptoms. They vary from person to person and the severity of them depends on the type of virus that is causing the dengue fever. Symptoms and signs of the disease include:

* Spiking fever up to 104 or 105 ?F
* A rash covering your body that will leave and then reappear after several days
* Vomiting and nausea
* Severe headaches
* Joint and muscle pain

For many, dengue fever does not cause death and symptoms will slowly subside after suffering for about a week. However, there are some cases which progress to the dengue hemorrhagic fever and the dengue shock syndrome. If this is the case, the more severe symptoms like blood vessel damage, excessive bleeding, and plummeting blood pressure will crop up about the third or fourth day of symptoms.

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About 5% of the cases of the more severe forms of dengue fever die but modern medicine and hospital stays can help the rest of the cases. While there is no vaccine or specific treatment, there are things that can be done to alleviate the pain and symptoms of the disease. The more severe forms require hospitalization to receive IV fluids, replacement of electrolytes, possible blood transfusions and more.

Milder forms of dengue fever can be treated by getting enough fluids to combat dehydration. Acetaminophen can be taken for fever and pain but ibuprofen and aspirin should be avoided along with other non-steroidal drugs as they can increase bleeding problems. Depression and general malaise could linger indefinitely following recovery.

Prevention of dengue fever is the key to staying healthy when traveling to high risk areas. Wear long-sleeved clothing and use insect repellent faithfully. Employ mosquito netting around sleep and lounging areas and avoid going out at night and just before dawn. Staying in air conditioned or screened in areas is optimal. Preventative measures goes a long way in preventing the contraction of dengue fever or any other tropical disease.