Dengue Fever – Questions and Answers

By Dr. M.Vijayalakshmi, M.D(Peds), M.D(USA), FAAP, DAA

Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Dengue Fever has been very prevalent in some areas of Kerala over the last couple of years. Recent reports suggest that more cases are getting reported in Kochi area this monsoon season as well. The following Question and Answer section should help you understand the disease better.

 What is dengue fever?.

Dengue (pronounced den' gee) is a disease caused by any one of four closely related viruses (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, or DEN-4). The viruses are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is estimated that there are over 100 million cases of dengue worldwide each year.

What is dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)?.

DHF is a more severe form of dengue. It can be fatal if unrecognized and not properly treated. DHF is caused by infection with the same viruses that cause dengue.

How are dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) spread?.

Dengue is transmitted to people by the bite of an Aedes mosquito that is infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected with dengue virus when it bites a person who has dengue or DHF and after about a week can transmit the virus while biting a healthy person. Dengue cannot be spread directly from person to person.

What are the symptoms of the disease?.

Unfortunately many of the symptoms of Dengue are common with many other illnesses. The principal symptoms of dengue are high fever, severe headache, backache, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, eye pain, and rash. Generally, younger children have a milder illness than older children and adults. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is characterized by a fever that lasts from 2 to 7 days, with general signs and symptoms that could occur with many other illnesses (e.g., nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and headache). This stage is followed by hemorrhagic manifestations, tendency to bruise easily or other types of skin hemorrhages, bleeding nose or gums, and possibly internal bleeding. The smallest blood vessels (capillaries) become excessively leaky, allowing the fluid component to escape from the blood vessels. This may lead to failure of the circulatory system and shock, followed by death, if circulatory failure is not corrected..

What is the treatment for dengue?.

There is no specific medication for treatment of a dengue infection. Persons who think they have dengue should use analgesics (pain relievers) with acetaminophen and avoid those containing aspirin. They should also rest, drink plenty of fluids, and consult their doctor.

Is there an effective treatment for dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)?.

As with dengue, there is no specific medication for DHF. It can however be effectively treated by fluid replacement therapy if an early clinical diagnosis is made. Hospitalization is normally required in order to adequately manage DHF.

Where can outbreaks of dengue occur?.

 Outbreaks of dengue occur primarily in areas where Aedes aegypti (sometimes also Aedes albopictus) mosquitoes live. This includes most tropical urban areas of the world including most places Kerala.

What can be done to reduce the risk of acquiring dengue?.

There is no vaccine for preventing dengue. The best preventive measure is to reduce the chances of mosquito bites.

How can we prevent epidemics of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF)?.

 The emphasis for dengue prevention is on sustainable, community-based, integrated mosquito control..