What is Dengue fever?
Dengue fever is a viral tropical disease that is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito is found in suburban and urban areas and usually breeds in flowerpots and dirty water. The mosquito bites humans during the day in contrast to malaria mosquitoes that attack at night. It is also known as ‘break bone fever’ attributable to the muscle and joint pains the victims of the fever experience.
In many tropical and subtropical regions like India, Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, Mexico and Central America, the fever is a yearly occurrence. Around 500,000 people are affected by the disease every year and the mortality rate is 2.5%.
When a person is infected by the mosquito, the virus circulates in the blood for 2-7 days which is the amount of time the fever takes to develop. If a person is already infected by the dengue fever, the disease can be transmitted when the first symptoms begin to appear- this usually takes 4-5 days after you are bitten. If a person recovers from dengue fever, they are permanently immune to the disease.
Ways to prevent dengue fever
- Use Mosquito Repellent
The most efficient way to prevent dengue fever is to use mosquito repellent creams. These creams should not be applied more than 3 times a day and the duration of protection usually varies depending on the brand. The higher the concentration, the longer the protection. However, some people might react badly to the chemicals in cream repellents, so make sure you do a patch test first.
Some other effective repellents include:
Mosquito patches: These are patches that can be placed on the back of clothing. They are non-toxic and can last up to 3 days. Because they are so safe to use, they are perfect for babies and young children.
Repellent bands: These are waterproof, silicone bands that are infused with citronella and prevent mosquitoes attacks.
Mosquito wipes: These anti-mosquito wipes are a great option for kids and a lot less messy than creams.
- Wear Protective Clothing
During mosquito season it is advisable to sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and windows covered with mosquito nets. Also, wear clothing with long sleeves and long pants that cover the skin as much as possible. The less exposed skin you have, the lower your chances of getting bitten. It is also advisable to wear light-coloured clothing as this usually repels mosquitoes.
- Use mosquito deterrents
When cleaning your house, use cleaning solutions and other deterrents that prevent dengue mosquitoes from entering your house. This includes electronic vaporisers that usually keep mosquitoes out of the house all day. However, vapourisers can cause an allergic reaction in children, so be cautious while using them. Another option is to add a drop of citronella or lemongrass to water before cleaning the floors as they repel mosquitoes. Make sure to use insecticide-treated bed nets while sleeping and ensure the windows are sealed so you don’t get bitten in your sleep. Sticking cloves in lemons and oranges can also deter mosquitoes and flies from entering the house because of the scent.
- Refrain from breeding grounds
Mosquitoes usually inhabit areas that are rife with grime, like stagnant pools, as these places allow mosquitoes to breed. Ensure that no part of your home has an unnecessary collection of dirt or filth, such as unwashed dishes or unclean floors. Having a clean and tidy home is extremely important to prevent dengue mosquitoes from infecting you.
- Avoid smells that attract mosquitoes
Smells such as sweat and perfume attract mosquitoes like moths to a flame. Shower often to remove sweat and use perfumes and creams that are unscented.
- Make sure your home is well-lit
Mosquitoes usually breed in small dark places. Have the sun stream through the windows all day to ensure your home isn’t inviting mosquitoes in. For added protection, make sure windows and doors are closed and covered with mosquito screens.
- Be knowledgeable about dengue fever
Dengue fever is caused when the virus is present in the salivary glands of the mosquito and are transmitted to humans by mosquito bite. The virus enters the blood stream resulting in viraemia. Once in your system, the virus causes infection in the body. Because of the severity of the disease, prevention is always the best cause when it comes to dengue. It is important for families to be informed about dengue, its effects and the precautions they need to take to avoid being affected by this debilitating disease.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
If there is a mild case of dengue fever, teens and children do not experience any symptoms when bitten by the mosquito. However, in adults, the symptoms usually begin 4-5 days after they are bitten. The first symptom of dengue is a very high fever of 104 F followed by a headache, nausea, vomiting or a rash. Many people recover from the fever in a week or so, but in certain cases, the symptoms intensify and it can be life-threatening. If you experience these symptoms, it is important that you get yourself tested at a reputed diagnostics centre. It is also advisable to see a doctor if you have visited a region where dengue fever is a common occurrence.
Dengue fever, while not always life-threatening, is not the most pleasant experience. During the mosquito breeding season in India, which is usually during the monsoon, make sure to take the precautions listed above to avoid being infected by the mosquito. Remember, ‘Treatment without prevention is unsustainable’!