Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that can have potentially lethal complications if not given proper medical care. With the warmer months of the year coming, the National Environment Agency (NEA) anticipates that cases of dengue fever may increase.
While the numbers are not as high as last year’s alarming spike, it is still important that we take the necessary precautions to protect us from falling ill.
We answer some of the common questions you may have about dengue to help you to better understand and take the right steps to protecting yourself against the disease.
How does dengue fever spread?
Dengue fever is transmitted through the bite of a female Aedes mosquito, carrying the dengue virus. Unlike other mosquito species, the Aedes mosquito is most active in the day.
Dengue fever cannot be spread directly from person to person. However, a person with dengue can pass on the virus to an uninfected Aedes mosquito, if they are bitten when the virus is still in their blood.
There are four serotypes (meaning: variation of a virus or bacteria) of the dengue virus: DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, DENV-4. NEA has observed that there has been a higher incidence of dengue caused by DENV-3 and DENV-4 in the past few months.
What are the symptoms of dengue fever?
Symptoms of dengue fever typically emerge four – seven days after an individual is bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include:
- High fever
- Muscle and joint aches
- Pain behind the eyes
- Vomiting, diarrhoea, or nausea.
Persons with severe dengue will have worsened symptoms, such as abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, vomiting blood, bleeding gums, rapid breathing, and fatigue.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately.
Is dengue fever fatal?
In rare cases, dengue fever can be fatal. Severe dengue fever can damage organs such as the lungs, liver and heart. Blood pressure can drop drastically; and in some cases, it can cause death.
How is dengue treated?
As dengue fever is caused by a virus, and there is no specific medication or antibiotic to treat it. The rule of thumb is to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhoea. Aim for clear or pale urine to know that you are taking sufficient water.
Even if there is no specific medication to treat dengue fever, you should still see a doctor for the illness. Your doctor will be able to prescribe you with medication to treat the symptoms, so that you can recover faster. Do not take medication without a doctor’s guidance, as some pain-relieving drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may cause complications instead.
Do I need to go to the hospital?
While most mild symptoms do not need hospitalisation, about 1 in 5 people diagnosed with severe dengue symptoms will require hospital care.
What types of food can help to treat dengue fever?
A popular myth around dengue fever is that papaya leaf can help to cure dengue fever. While no specific food can cure dengue fever, certain types of food can help to manage the symptoms. Taking in fruits and vegetables can help to strengthen your immune system, so that you can fight the infection better.
If you are having difficulty eating, choose foods that are easy to swallow and digest such as porridge and soft foods. Remember to hydrate regularly as well.
Can dengue fever recur?
As mentioned, there are four serotypes of dengue. When you recover from one serotype, your body would have built immunity against it. However, you may pick up repeated dengue fevers from the other three.
It has been observed that during a recurring dengue fever, the chances of a severe dengue episode become higher. As such, we should try to reduce the risks of us contracting dengue in the first place!
How can I prevent dengue?
The best prevention is to reduce your chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes. Actions you can take include:
- Wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts, and socks
- Using a mosquito repellent
- Installing window screens or nettings
NEA has also observed that there were more dengue infections reported last year during Circuit Breaker compared to previous years. This could be because most of us were at home rather than the office, where the chances of being bitten were higher.
As such, it is important that we do a regular check of your home environment, to reduce any potential breeding areas for Aedes mosquitoes. Some simple and effective actions include:
- Eliminating stagnant water which are mosquito breeding locations such as watering cans, buckets, clogged drains
- Keeping roof gutters clear and placing BTI insecticide inside
- Regularly changing water in vases or under plant pots
- Breaking up hardened soil
Falling ill with dengue can be an unpleasant experience, so we should take the steps to minimise our chances of getting infected. Think you’re experiencing suspected symptoms of dengue fever? Speak to a doctor online now.