Dengue: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Dengue is a significant public health concern, affecting millions of people worldwide, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. In the context of the global health landscape, dengue awareness is a cornerstone in mitigating the impact of this preventable and treatable disease, ultimately saving lives and reducing the burden on healthcare systems.

What is dengue?

Ans) Dengue is a viral disease caused by the dengue virus, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti. This disease is a significant global health concern, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including parts of Southeast Asia, which includes, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, etc., the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The dengue virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family, and there are four distinct serotypes of the virus: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4. Infection with one serotype provides lifelong immunity to that specific serotype, but not to the others. Subsequent infections with different serotypes can lead to more severe cases of dengue, known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

The primary mode of transmission is through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, which are active during the daytime. These mosquitoes thrive in urban and semi-urban areas, breeding in stagnant water sources such as discarded containers, tires, and flower pots. Globalization, urbanization, and climate change have contributed to the increasing spread of Aedes mosquitoes, thereby expanding the geographic range of dengue transmission.

What are the symptoms of dengue?

Ans) Understanding the symptoms of dengue is crucial for early diagnosis and appropriate medical management. Key symptoms of dengue include:

1. Mild Dengue (Dengue Fever):

Mild dengue, often referred to as dengue fever, is the most common form of the disease. The incubation period for dengue is typically 4-10 days after the mosquito bite. Symptoms usually begin abruptly and may include:

  • High Fever: One of the hallmark symptoms of dengue is a sudden and high fever, often reaching up to 104°F (40°C). This fever can last for several days.
  • Severe Headache: Dengue-infected individuals commonly experience intense headaches, which can be debilitating.
  • Pain Behind the Eyes: A distinctive symptom of dengue is pain, often described as a deep ache, behind the eyes. This symptom can make eye movements uncomfortable.
  • Joint and Muscle Pain: Dengue is often associated with joint and muscle pain, which is sometimes referred to as “breakbone fever” due to its severity.
  • Rash: Some individuals may develop a rash, typically appearing a few days after the onset of fever.
  • Mild Bleeding: Mild bleeding manifestations, such as nosebleeds, gum bleeding, or easy bruising, can occur. The low platelet count in dengue patients can result in a range of bleeding symptoms.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can mimic those of other viral illnesses, such as influenza. Therefore, clinical evaluation and laboratory tests are essential for an accurate diagnosis of dengue.

2. Severe Dengue (Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome):

In a subset of cases, dengue can progress to severe forms of the disease, known as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS). These conditions are characterized by more pronounced and potentially life-threatening symptoms. Severe dengue typically occurs after an initial dengue infection, followed by infection with a different serotype of the virus. The symptoms of severe dengue include:

  • Severe Abdominal Pain: Severe dengue can cause intense abdominal pain, often described as “gut-wrenching.”
  • Vomiting and Persistent Nausea: Individuals with severe dengue may experience persistent vomiting and nausea, leading to dehydration.
  • Organ Impairment: Severe dengue can lead to organ dysfunction, affecting the liver, heart, and other vital organs.
  • Low Platelet Count: The low platelet count in dengue patients can result in a range of bleeding symptoms, which may include petechiae (small, red or purple spots on the skin due to bleeding under the skin), easy bruising, nosebleeds, gum bleeding, and in severe cases, gastrointestinal bleeding or even internal bleeding.
  • Fatigue and Restlessness: Individuals with severe dengue may appear extremely tired and restless.
  • Rapid Breathing: Fast and shallow breathing can indicate respiratory distress, a critical warning sign.
  • Change in Mental State: Confusion, irritability, or altered consciousness may signal neurological involvement.
  • Fluid Accumulation: Swelling of the hands, feet, and face can be a sign of fluid retention associated with severe dengue.

Early recognition and prompt medical intervention are essential to manage severe dengue effectively and reduce the risk of complications or death.

Who is at risk of developing dengue?

Ans) Dengue is a viral disease that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. However, certain factors increase an individual’s risk of developing dengue and experiencing more severe forms of the disease. They include:

1. Geographic Location:

The primary factor influencing an individual’s risk of contracting dengue is their geographic location. Dengue is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including parts of Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. In these areas, the Aedes mosquitoes that transmit the dengue virus thrive due to the warm and humid climate. Travelers visiting or residing in dengue-endemic regions are at an increased risk of exposure to the virus, particularly if they do not take appropriate preventive measures.

2.Seasonal Variations:

Dengue transmission often exhibits seasonal patterns. In many endemic regions, dengue cases tend to peak during the rainy season when mosquito breeding sites, such as stagnant water containers, become more abundant. The increased mosquito activity during these periods raises the risk of dengue transmission. Therefore, individuals living in or travelling to dengue-endemic areas should be especially cautious during peak transmission seasons.


Age is a significant determinant of dengue risk. Children and adolescents are at a higher risk of developing symptomatic dengue infections, including severe forms of the disease such as dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS). This is partly because they are more likely to be exposed to the virus in their communities and partly because their immune systems may not have encountered the virus before, increasing the risk of severe illness upon infection.

4.Previous Dengue Infections:

The risk of severe dengue increases if an individual has been previously infected with one serotype of the dengue virus and is subsequently infected with a different serotype. This phenomenon, known as antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), can lead to more severe symptoms and complications. As a result, individuals living in dengue-endemic areas may experience multiple dengue infections over their lifetime, each potentially increasing the risk of severe disease.

5.Immune Status:

An individual’s immune status can influence their susceptibility to dengue and the severity of the infection. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, may be at an increased risk of severe dengue. Additionally, factors like malnutrition and chronic illnesses can weaken the immune response, making individuals more susceptible to dengue.

6.Poor Sanitation & Hygiene:

Poor sanitation and hygiene practices play a significant role in the spread of dengue fever, primarily by creating favourable conditions for the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes, the primary vectors of the dengue virus. In areas with inadequate sanitation infrastructure and poor waste management, stagnant water accumulates in various containers, discarded tires, open drains, and other receptacles. These water sources become ideal breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes, as they lay their eggs in even small amounts of standing water.

Additionally, poor sanitation can result in blocked or clogged drains, creating stagnant pools of water near residential areas. These stagnant water bodies serve as breeding sites, fostering the rapid proliferation of mosquito populations. Moreover, improper waste disposal practices often lead to the accumulation of discarded containers and debris that can collect rainwater, providing additional breeding opportunities for Aedes mosquitoes.

Infrastructure elements like potholes can inadvertently contribute to the spread of dengue. Potholes often collect rainwater and become reservoirs of stagnant water, creating ideal conditions for mosquito larvae to develop. Furthermore, the problem is exacerbated in areas with inadequate drainage systems or where potholes are not promptly repaired.

7.Socioeconomic Factors:

Socioeconomic factors play a crucial role in dengue risk. People living in impoverished communities often have limited access to proper housing and sanitation, which can result in an increased presence of Aedes mosquito breeding sites. Additionally, individuals in low-income areas may lack access to healthcare facilities, making early diagnosis and treatment of dengue more challenging. Consequently, socioeconomic disparities can contribute to a higher risk of dengue transmission and severe disease in vulnerable populations.

Recognizing these risk factors is essential for public health efforts aimed at preventing and controlling dengue. Implementing effective mosquito control measures, promoting community engagement, and developing vaccines are critical strategies to reduce dengue transmission and protect vulnerable populations. 

How is dengue treated?

Ans) Dengue, a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, has no specific antiviral treatment. Therefore, managing dengue primarily involves supportive care to alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and ensure a smooth recovery.

1. Early Diagnosis and Medical Evaluation:

Early diagnosis is essential for the effective treatment of dengue. If an individual experiences symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, rash, or bleeding tendencies, they should seek medical attention promptly. Healthcare providers will conduct a clinical evaluation and order laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis.

2.Supportive Care:

Since there is no specific antiviral treatment for dengue, the cornerstone of management is supportive care. Supportive care aims to relieve symptoms, maintain hydration, and prevent complications. Key components of supportive care include:

  • Pain and Fever Management: Pain relievers like paracetamol are commonly used to reduce fever and alleviate headache, joint, and muscle pain.
  • Hydration: Maintaining adequate hydration is crucial in dengue management. Intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary for patients with severe dengue to manage fluid loss and prevent shock. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) may be recommended for those with milder cases to replace fluids and electrolytes lost due to fever and vomiting.
  • Monitoring: Patients with dengue should be closely monitored, particularly in the critical phase of the disease, which typically occurs around the time of defervescence (fever subsiding). Monitoring includes assessing vital signs, hematocrit levels (to detect hemoconcentration), and platelet counts. Early detection of warning signs of severe dengue is essential for timely intervention.

3. Transfusion of Blood Components:

In cases of severe dengue with significant bleeding or a rapid drop in platelet count, transfusion of blood components may be necessary. Platelet transfusions can help manage thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), while packed red blood cell transfusions may be required if there is severe bleeding or anaemia. However, transfusions are typically reserved for severe cases and should be guided by clinical evaluation and laboratory results.

4. Hospitalization and Intensive Care:

Patients with severe dengue, particularly those exhibiting warning signs, may require hospitalization in an intensive care unit (ICU). ICU care is essential to manage complications such as organ impairment, shock, and respiratory distress. Patients in the critical phase may need close monitoring of vital signs, aggressive fluid resuscitation, and oxygen therapy.

5. Prevention of Complications:

Preventing complications is a key aspect of dengue treatment. Individuals with dengue should be advised to avoid medications that can increase the risk of bleeding, such as NSAIDs and certain anticoagulants. Additionally, patients should be monitored for signs of complications like internal bleeding, liver enlargement, and fluid accumulation.

6. Convalescence and Recovery:

After the acute phase of dengue, which typically lasts for about one to two weeks, patients enter a convalescent phase. During this phase, fever subsides, and other symptoms gradually improve. It is important for individuals to continue resting, maintain hydration, and avoid strenuous activities during this period. Some patients may experience lingering fatigue and weakness for several weeks, but these symptoms generally improve with time.

How do I prevent myself from getting dengue?

Ans) Preventing dengue infection is crucial, especially for individuals residing in or travelling to dengue-endemic regions. Dengue is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, so effective prevention strategies focus on reducing mosquito exposure and breeding sites.

1. Mosquito Bite Prevention:

The most effective way to prevent dengue is to avoid mosquito bites. Aedes mosquitoes, which transmit the dengue virus, are active during the daytime, with peak biting periods in the early morning and late afternoon. To reduce the risk of mosquito bites:

  • Use Insect Repellent: Apply an insect repellent containing recommended ingredients to exposed skin and clothing. Reapply as directed on the product label.
  • Wear Protective Clothing: When in areas with a high risk of dengue transmission, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes to minimize exposed skin.
  • Use Bed Nets: Sleep under bed nets, particularly if you are in a dengue-endemic region. Ensure that the bed net is properly installed and free of holes.
  • Stay in Air-Conditioned or Screened Accommodations: If possible, choose accommodations with air conditioning or screened windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry.

2. Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Sites:

Aedes mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, making it crucial to reduce potential breeding sites around homes and communities. Here are steps to eliminate mosquito breeding sites:

  • Empty and Clean Containers: Regularly inspect and empty containers that collect rainwater, such as flower pots, buckets, discarded tires, and gutters. Clean containers to remove mosquito eggs and larvae.
  • Cover Water Storage Containers: If you have water storage containers, ensure they are covered with tight-fitting lids to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  • Dispose of Trash Properly: Dispose of solid waste and rubbish in covered bins to prevent water accumulation in discarded items.
  • Maintain Drains and Gutters: Keep drains and gutters clear of debris to prevent water stagnation.
  • Change Water in Vases and Bird Baths: If you have decorative vases or bird baths, change the water regularly to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Keep Swimming Pools Clean: Maintain swimming pools properly and ensure they are adequately chlorinated to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in stagnant water.

3. Community Engagement and Education:

Community involvement and education play a significant role in dengue prevention. Public health authorities and organizations can:

  • Conduct Awareness Campaigns: Raise awareness about dengue and its prevention through educational campaigns, workshops, and community events.
  • Encourage Community Cleanup: Mobilize communities to participate in regular clean-up drives to remove potential mosquito breeding sites.
  • Promote Insecticide-Treated Screens and Curtains: Encourage the use of insecticide-treated screens and curtains in homes and public places to reduce mosquito entry.
  • Support Vector Control Programs: Collaborate with local vector control programs to implement mosquito control measures, such as insecticide spraying in high-risk areas.

By adopting these strategies and promoting dengue awareness, individuals, communities, and public health authorities can work together to reduce the risk of dengue transmission in endemic regions.

Getting the appropriate medical treatment and care is crucial to avoid any associated medical complications.

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