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Dengue Fever


Female Aedes aegypti mosquito
Kallista Images/Kallista Images/Getty Images

What is Dengue Fever?:

Dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) are viral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, usually Ae. aegypti. More than 2.5 billion persons now live in areas at risk of infection, and an estimated 50 million–100 million cases of dengue fever occur each year throughout the world.

How Can I Get Infected With Dengue Fever?:

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes which carry the virus from one infected person to another (very similar to malaria). If you get bitten by a mosquito carying the virus, you will get dengue fever. The mosquito carrying the virus prefers to feed on humans during the daytime and is found in or near human habitations. Breeding sites include artificial water containers such as discarded tires, uncovered barrels, buckets, flower vases or pots, cans, and cisterns.

How Can I Avoid Getting Dengue Fever?:

The best way to avoid getting dengue fever is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, especially during the day when the Ae. aegypti is most active. Use insect repellent that contains DEET for maximum effect and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Staying in rooms which are air-conditioned or have a good working fan will also help.

Symptoms of Dengue Fever:

Dengue fever is characterized by the sudden onset of a high fever, severe frontal headache, and joint and muscle pain. These symptoms appear (usually) after an incubation period of 4-7 days. Many patients will have nausea, vomiting, and develop a rash. The rash appears 3-5 days after the onset of the fever and can spread from the torso to the arms, legs, and face. Dengue can also present as a severe, sometimes fatal hemorrhagic disease called DHF.

Treatment of Dengue Fever:

There is no vaccination for dengue fever. Acetaminophen products are recommended for managing fever (not aspirin or ibuprofen). Patients should be encouraged to rest and take abundant fluids. In severe cases, the prompt infusion of intravenous fluids is necessary to maintain adequate blood pressure. Because shock may develop suddenly, vital signs must be monitored frequently. Hypotension is a more frequent complication of DHF than severe hemorrhage.

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