Dengue is a mosquito borne viral illness. It is caused by one of the 4 strains of the dengue virus that is Dengue 1, 2, 3 or 4. It is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti species of mosquito, which is a day time biting mosquito, where it bites especially early morning or late in the afternoon. Upon biting an infected person the mosquito acquires the virus and then can transmit it to another individual when he/she gets bitten. Now, dengue can range from a mild infection to a more severe form known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can lead to a fatal condition known as the dengue shock syndrome.
Symptoms of the dengue syndrome can be seen anywhere between 1-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and symptoms can be any of the following, that is fever which can range from 103-106 F, there can be headaches which can frontal or behind the eye, there can be some back pain, there can be muscular and joint pain, there can be some vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, there can be the appearance of a rash 1 to 2 days after the person has been infected.
Now, the worrying or warning signs that you can see in a patient after the fever has abated can indicate that this mild dengue has now progressed to a severe form, these symptoms include abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, pin point rashes that you may see anywhere in the body, there can be some bleeding from the nose or bleeding from the gums, easy bruising, there can be some blood in the vomitus and the patient can be lethargic or very irritable or there can be any difficulty with breathing.
You need to see your doctor if your child should show any signs or symptoms of dengue.Then your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam checking all their vital parameters, which is the temperature, the respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure. And upon clinical exam if your doctor suspects dengue or any of the warning signs that we just discussed. Then he/she may ask for couple of tests which would include a blood test, checking for platelet count and white blood cell count which are usually low in dengue and haematocrit concentration which is usually slightly increased. Now, we can also check for the dengue virus by obtaining levels of the dengue NS1, IgM and IgG antibodies and your child may require the cell counts to be repeated a few times over the course of the illness to monitor the progress.
There is no specific treatment for dengue as it is viral, but close medical monitoring is required in case there is a need to intervene if the dengue should become more severe. Now, most dengue infections are mild and self-limiting and do not require hospitalization. Mild dengue can be managed at home with adequate consumption of fluids, providing good nutritional food and a close medical monitoring.
You can give paracetamol for the fever and for the pain, do not use ibuprofen or aspirin. Now, when the warning signs of dengue haemorrhagic fever should appear in your child this would require immediate medical evaluation and hospitalization to try and prevent the progression of this haemorrhagic fever to a dengue shock syndrome which is quite fatal. In the hospital appropriate treatment provided would include supportive treatment with adequate intravenous hydration, oxygen if required and close monitoring of the vital signs and the blood parameters. Now an infusion with platelets or plasma may be required depending upon the clinical condition of the child.
The only means to prevention of dengue is to avoid mosquito bites and this can be achieved by ensuring that there is no stagnation of water in containers or water bodies in or around your house, keep all water storage containers closed with a lid and cleaned on a regular basis, mesh the doors and windows of your home to keep it mosquito free, sleep in mosquito nets, wear full sleeve shirts and full pants and closed shoes when playing outdoors, use insect repellent in accordance to the instructions on the labels and after advice from your doctor while your child is going out to play. Now, lots of work is being done to come up with a vaccine to prevent dengue. Thank you