How is the disease caused?
The disease is caused by Dengue virus and transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.
What are the common symptoms?
Symptoms start with fever that can last from 2 to 5 days. It can be associated with vomiting, body pains (especially leg pains), joint pains, head ache, pain behind the eyes, skin rash, sore throat, tummy pain etc.
In most of the children, the disease is mild, and the child recovers without any treatment. Some children develop complications and go on to develop severe dengue.
What are the complications seen in severe dengue fever?
The complications usually start once the fever settles down (usually between days 3 to 7).
The complications include:
Low platelet counts- may not cause problems unless extremely low
Fluid accumulation- leading to puffiness of face, hands and feet.
Shock- which can be identified by low blood pressure, cold hands and feet.
Clotting problems- leading to bleeding from different sites.
Failure of several organs- liver, heart, brain etc.
When should children be admitted to the hospital?
Children with any of the below symptoms should be admitted and treated in the hospital.
Severe abdominal pain and persistent vomiting
Any of the symptoms of severe dengue listed above
How is the diagnosis confirmed?
Dengue fever can mimic any other viral illness. In suspected children, the diagnosis can be confirmed by available blood tests like NS1 antigen and antibodies to Dengue virus. However, some of the tests may be positive only in the later stages of the illness and therefore parents should not rush to do blood tests in the first few days of fever. Moreover, as the complications of Dengue start only in the later stages, diagnosis in the first few days is not going to alter the management of the condition.
What is the treatment for Dengue fever?
The fever due to Dengue can be treated like any other fever by fever medications like paracetemol.
Parents need to ensure that the child is taking adequate fluids orally. Children admitted to the
hospital can be carefully monitored for the complications and treated accordingly.
How can we prevent the disease?
There is currently a vaccine available preventing dengue infection.
The best preventive measure is to eliminate the places where the Aedes mosquito lays her eggs, primarily artificial containers that hold water.
Items that collect rainwater or to store water (for example, plastic containers, drums, buckets, or used automobile tires) should be covered or properly discarded.
Pet and animal watering containers and vases with fresh flowers should be emptied and cleaned (to remove eggs) at least once a week. This will eliminate the mosquito eggs and larvae and reduce the number of mosquitoes present in these areas.
Using air conditioning or window and door screens reduces the risk of mosquitoes coming indoors.
Proper application of mosquito repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET as the active ingredient on exposed skin and clothing decreases the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.
These measures should be taken in communities and schools so that deaths can be prevented from this disease.