Dengue fever is caused by a mosquito-borne virus, which affects more than 390 million people each year. The disease, though mild, becomes deadly if no or inappropriate preventive measures are considered. In Pakistan, 10,000 cases have so far been reported at hospitals. Although the government has initiated multiple preventive measures at all levels, there is a critical need to sensitize the public through rigorous awareness campaigns.
In this article, we will discuss how dengue fever spreads, its symptoms, treatment procedures, and top preventive tips and tricks to keep it out of your life.
How does dengue spread?
The dengue virus spreads following the given cycle:
- A mosquito (usually of Aedes species) bites a dengue-infected human.
- The mosquito becomes infected and a carrier of dengue fever.
- When it bites a human, the human gets infected.
- The infected human then infects unaffected/uninfected mosquitoes, and the cycle goes on.
How to recognise a dengue mosquito?
Name Aedes Aegypti mosquito
Threat of dengue attack Year round
Victims Both humans and animals
Look Dark coloured, with white lyre-shaped markings and banded legs
Breeding place Water containers (usually with a wide opening and dark colour) and plants near your households
Breeding cycle 7-8 days (from egg to adult)
Adult mosquito life span Three weeks
Favorite season Summers, monsoon
Biting behaviour Primarily, bites during the day; remains active for two hours after sunrise, and a few hours before sunset. It usually bites on ankles and elbows.
Threat level of Dengue Fever
According to CDC,
- 75% of dengue infections show no symptoms.
- 20% of dengue symptoms are mild.
- 5% of dengue infections show severe and deadly symptoms.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
The symptoms can be grouped into two major categories: typical symptoms and dangerous symptoms.
- high fever
- severe headache
- severe eye pain
- joint pain
- muscle/bone pain
- easy bruising
- mild nose or gum bleeding
- low white blood cell count
- severe abdominal pain
- persistent vomiting
- red spots or patches on skin
- vomiting blood
- black, tarry stool
- drowsiness or irritability
- pale, cold and clammy skin
- difficult breathing
Diagnosis of Dengue Fever
- Blood test is conducted to ascertain the presence of dengue fever.
Treatment of Dengue Fever
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever; however, you may consider the following:
- pain relievers with acetaminophen
- avoid aspirin containing medicine
- proper hydration, excessive intake of water and fluids
- consult a doctor immediately if the symptoms get worse within 24 hours
A vaccine named Dengvaxia was approved by FDA in 2019 to prevent dengue fever among adolescents aged between 9-16 years, who had once remained infected with the disease. There is unfortunately no vaccine for protecting the general population
- Squash fresh apple juice with fresh lemon juice and drink 2-3 times a day.
- Two tablespoons of papaya leaf juice a couple of times a day.
- Grapefruit juice thrice a day.
- Add honey into boiling lemongrass and take it when cooled down.
- Tomatoes, pomegranate, cherries, watermelons and black grapes increase platelet levels and are helpful in dengue fever.
We all agree that prevention is much better than cure; but how effective are our preventive measures or how effectively do we adopt them, is a matter of debate. Here are some tips that will keep dengue-borne mosquitos away from your life.
Use Mosquito Deterrents in Homes
Dengue-borne mosquitoes usually bite after sunrise and before sunset. It is advisable to use any good quality mosquito deterrent to prevent the forthcoming trouble. Some are advised here:
- Mosquito Repellant
- Mosquito patches
These are citronella-infused stickers that can be stuck on the kids’ clothing.They are non-toxic, odourless, contact-less, and DEET-free.
- Repellant bands
These are citronella-infused wristbands that last long and are waterproof. These can be tried for older kids.
These are wet wipes that are easy to use, convenient to handle and safe for use for kids.
- Lotions and liquids
Different brands of lotions and liquids are available in the market. Any good quality lotion can be used.
- Mosquito patches
- Electronic vapourizer
- These are good to create a safe zone or area, as the vapours deter the mosquitos from entering the house. However, its use needs to be reduced if toddlers or infants are around.
- Plant Marigold and Lemongrass
- Marigold and lemon grass are natural mosquito repellants. It is good to plant these near your household and office. Secondly, you can add a drop of citronella oilor lemongrass to the water which is to be used for mopping your floors.
- Air conditioning
- When indoors, try to use air conditioning or keep the room temperature low, as these mosquitoes cannot breed in very low temperatures.
Prevent Breeding Places
Dengue-borne mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, primarily in fresh water. Get rid of collection of water in the form of puddles, pools, water pots, drains, or filled water pails, as these are readily available places for mosquito breeding. Pails should be turned upside down after use, and no water is to be left contained. Secondly, if you cannot remove a pool or collection of water yourself, at least add some kerosene oil to it and inform the relevant authorities.
Even if you remove water from your containers, scrub and clean their interior nicely to remove eggs or larvae, in case there are any. In the case of water tanks or other household water reservoirs, try to cover them properly.
Wear protective clothing
One of the best strategies to prevent dengue fever is to wear protective cloths. Try to cover as much of your body as possible, especially during the two sensitive timings. You may consider wearing long sleeves, socks, covered shoes, and long trousers, etc. Additionally, wear light-coloured dresses during the peak season, as these are less attractive to mosquitoes.
Keep your doors shut for the uninvited guests
Before taking up any remedial action, why not to shut the doors to keep the mosquito-borne virus away from our households? Try to keep your doors and windows closed, particularly, during the specific two timings when threat from dengue increases. It is also suggested that netting should be fixed in the doors and windows to limit the entry of flying insects. Since toddlers and infants are more vulnerable, always fix mosquito nets around their beds, carts and other types of holders.
Keep your surroundings spick and span
In an effort to maximise the layers of self-defence against dengue mosquitoes, try to keep your surroundings tidy and clean. You may consider doing the following:
- Drains, manholes and water passages must be kept clear of all types of blockades including fallen leaves and tree branches, stones, pebbles, plastic shopping bags and other types of trash.
- Place Bti insecticide in the roof gutters of your homes at least once a month.
- Inspection doors should be kept closed after maintenance and all keyholes and gaps around covers must be sealed.
- Flip the flowerpots and scrub these thoroughly to prevent larvae generation.
- Soften and loosen the hardened soil in both the garden and the pots on every alternate day.
- Unwanted receptacles like useless piles, tires, worn-out sports stuff etc. should be removed to kill every possibility of a mosquito infestation.
- Avoid plants with thick leaf axils to avoid water trapping.
- Sand granular insecticides could be used in those places where stagnant water could not be easily removed.
- Never forget to cover the toilet bowls.
Viral infections and diseases can be avoided by being careful with our daily routines. These tips will surely help in mitigating every chance of becoming a victim to dengue fever. Read, exercise and let us know the results.
Stay clean, stay healthy!