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India has witnessed a significant jump of Dengue outbreak over the past few years. We’ve all had friends and loved ones exposed to Dengue and hospitalised. I think it’s very important for all of us to know about how Dengue can manifest. Hence, the purpose of this blog post is to shed light on the signs and symptoms of Dengue.
In 2013,109 Indians died from the tropical illness in the first nine months. 38,179 cases were recorded with Dengue symptoms, more than double the number for all of 2011. In 2015, Delhi recorded 15,000 cases. Mumbai recorded 1500 cases with signs of Dengue in only first days of September 2016.
According to the World Health Organisation, 3.9 billion people live in regions susceptible to Dengue. 70% of these people live in areas around Asia, Africa and the Pacific. There are around 390 million cases per year and at least 96 million show indications of Dengue requiring medical treatment. Between 1960 and 2010, the number of cases has increased 30-fold. Not only has the prevalence rate increased, but the risk of explosive outbreaks is also looming.
What is Dengue?
Dengue is a tropical disease that is spread by several species of mosquitoes of the Aedes type, primarily Aedes Aegypti. It is viral and infectious in nature. It cannot transmit directly from person to person. However, the mosquito itself can become infected with Dengue virus when it bites a person who has Dengue. After about a week, it can transmit the virus while biting a healthy person.
In a small number of cases, Dengue can take on more severe manifestations like Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS). DHF can result in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and leaking of the blood plasma. DSS involves the blood pressure dipping dangerously low. Both these conditions are potentially life threatening and hence the increasing attention to this condition. If treated properly, the mortality or death caused by Dengue is below 1%.
Symptoms of Dengue
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The period between exposure and the onset of symptoms of Dengue can range between 4-10 days on average. The indications themselves usually last for 2–7 days with fever reaching 41°C. Fever that lasts longer than 10 days is probably not dengue.
In the case of children and those who have contracted Dengue for the first time, the symptoms are mild compared to adults. Children often experience Dengue symptoms similar to common cold along with vomiting, diarrhea and high fever. However, they face a greater risk of severe complications.
The principal and most common signs of Dengue fever include a high fever accompanied by at least 2 of the following:
- severe headache
- pain behind the eyes
- muscle and joint pains
- swollen glands
Physical manifestations and evidence like rash or aching joints are not a reliable means for diagnosing Dengue because they are unlikely to appear until after the initial fever has passed.
Severe manifestations of Dengue
The Dengue symptoms must be monitored to ensure that they don’t manifest into a more dangerous form of Dengue. In the case of severe Dengue symptoms, conditions like DHF occur 2–7 days after the appearance of the initial signs. DHF requires immediate medical attention.
In addition to the symptoms of a mild Dengue fever, the signs of DHF are:
- a decrease in temperature
- vomiting occasionally with blood
- rapid breathing
- bleeding gums
- fatigue or restlessness
- bleeding from the nose
- cold, clammy skin
- damaged and leaky blood vessels
- possible internal bleeding
- lower platelet count
- sensitive stomach
- bruising easily
- hemorrhagic indications
In this condition, the patient needs immediate hospitalization. Lethal complications may arise in the next 24–48 hours. If left untreated, DHF most likely progresses to Dengue Shock Syndrome. DSS is the most lethal form of Dengue. Apart from the principal symptoms of Dengue and DHF, the other manifestations of DSS include:
- intense and severe stomach, abdominal pain
- quick drop in blood pressure (hypotension)
- heavy bleeding
- frequent, excessive vomiting
When it comes to the diagnosis of Dengue, a concern is that people often mistake Dengue symptoms for a less dangerous viral fever. Hence, they tend to ignore the infection. This complicates matters significantly in a country such as India. So after the symptoms arise, instead of brushing it off, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.