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What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Dengue is transmitted by several species of mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally A. aegypti.

The Aedes aegypti has five different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications.

As there is no commercially available vaccine, prevention is sought by reducing the habitat and the number of mosquitoes and limiting exposure to bites.

Diagnosis of Dengue Fever

The diagnosis of dengue is typically made clinically, on the basis of reported symptoms and physical examination; this applies especially in endemic areas. However, early disease can be difficult to differentiate from other viral infections.

A probable diagnosis is based on the findings of fever plus two of the following: nausea and vomiting, rash, generalized pains, low white blood cell count, positive tourniquet test, or any warning sign in someone who lives in an endemic area. Warning signs typically occur before the onset of severe dengue.

The tourniquet test, which is particularly useful in settings where no laboratory investigations are readily available, involves the application of a blood pressure cuff at between the diastolic and systolic pressure for five minutes, followed by the counting of any petechial hemorrhages; a higher number makes a diagnosis of dengue more likely with the cut off being more than 10 to 20 per 1 inch2 (6.25 cm2).

Symptoms of Dengue Fever

Symptoms of Dengue Fever include
- fever
- headache
- muscle and joint pains
- a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles

In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.

Dengue Fever Treatment

Treatment of acute dengue is supportive, using either oral or intravenous rehydration for mild or moderate disease, and intravenous fluids and blood transfusion for more severe cases.

The number of cases of dengue fever has increased dramatically since the 1960s, with between 50 and 528 million people infected yearly. Early descriptions of the condition date from 1779, and its viral cause and transmission were understood by the early 20th century.

Dengue has become a global problem since the Second World War and is endemic in more than 110 countries. Apart from eliminating the mosquitoes, work is ongoing on a dengue vaccine, as well as medication targeted directly at the virus.

See Also

» Avian Flu
» Dengue Fever
» Ebola Virus
» Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
» Swine Flu
» Zika Fever

 
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