Dengue fever is an important mosquito-borne disease in India in terms of the morbidity and mortality it causes.
- Dengue fever is a viral illness which spreads by the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito and is communicable.
- The Aedes mosquito becomes infected after biting an infected person and remains infected for its lifetime. The virus multiplies in the mosquito and when it bites a healthy person, it transmits the infection during the blood meal. To get one full blood meal the mosquito bites several persons, and infects all of them in the process.
- In the infected person the virus multiplies and then he or she develops the symptoms when the virus has multiplied in sufficient numbers. The time taken from being infected with the virus to development of symptom is called the incubation period which is about 4-6 days (average).
People get sick 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected dengue mosquito. While sick with dengue fever people are able to pass the virus on to other dengue mosquitoes that bite them. These mosquitoes can then infect more people and one dengue case can very quickly become many, which results in an outbreak.
Some measures to prevent spread of dengue fever
- Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites: Close the windows and doors at dawn and dusk (active mosquito times) to prevent mosquitoes from entering your house, wear protective clothing such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellent creams or lotions.
- Control breeding of mosquito: Cleans the areas where the mosquitoes live and breed such as water in coolers, pools, rain barrels, and potted plant trays.
- Wear a good repellent (containing DEET or Picaridin): particularly during daylight hours when the dengue mosquito is most active
- Ensure window and door screens are in good condition
- Use mosquito coils or plug-in mosquito repellent devices
- Wear long, loose clothing to help protect yourself from bites.
There is no vaccine or medication to prevent or treat dengue fever.
To manage dengue fever you should:
- Stay at home and rest in a room with window screens to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes
- Have someone stay at home to look after you
- Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated, even if you can't eat
- Use paracetamol (alone or with codeine) for pain - don't exceed the recommended dose
- Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs as they increase the chance of bleeding.
It is very important to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes so you don't pass the virus on to other dengue mosquitoes. Do this by:
- Resting in a screened room
- Using a personal repellent (containing DEET or Picaridin) particularly during daylight hours
- Using mosquito coils or plug-in mosquitoes repellent devices.
- If anyone in your household has dengue symptoms advise them to go to the doctor immediately.
Note that if adequate measures are not taken to prevent mosquito breeding and mosquito bites, dengue fever will go on in the community.
Read more articles on Dengue.