Dengue fever is a debilitating, mosquito-borne disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses, which are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever. Dengue can’t be spread directly from one person to another person: the fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus, after biting a person with the virus.
It’s estimated that every year 100 million cases of dengue fever occur worldwide, most of them in tropical regions, where the risk is higher, such as in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, The Pacific Islands, The Caribbean (except Cuba and the Cayman Islands), Mexico, Africa, Central and South America (except Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina).
In the U.S., most dengue fever cases occur in people who got infected during a trip abroad. However, the risk is palpably increasing for people living along the Texas-Mexico border and in other parts of the southern country.
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Symptoms of Dengue Fever
Usually, it takes 4 to 6 days for the infection symptoms to appear, and they can last for more than 10 days. Symptoms can include: sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, severe joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and mild bleeding (like nose bleeds, bleeding gums, or easy bruising).
If the symptoms are mild, they can be easily mistaken for signs of flu or other viral infection. Milder cases are experienced by younger children and those who are infected for the first time; symptoms are aggravated in adults and older children.
Still, serious complications emerge, like dengue hemorrhagic fever, a rare complication characterized by high fever, damage to lymph nodes and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system. When the symptoms evolve to massive bleeding, shock, and eventually death, people are facing what is called dengue shock syndrome (DSS).
It’s believed that people with fragile immune system as well as in a second or subsequent dengue infection have greater risk for developing dengue hemorrhagic fever.
A blood test can be used to check the Dengue virus or antibodies in the blood. If the test is positive, there is no specific treatment for the infection. Pain relievers with acetaminophen or ease symptoms can help to ease the symptoms, but medications with aspirin must be avoided, because they can worsen bleeding. Resisting, drinking lots of liquids and seeing a doctor are also highly recommended.
Dengue fever is currently being researched, and some progress in knowing more about the infections are being accomplished. Recently, a study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, covering three years of blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples submitted for West Nile virus testing, found that 47 of the samples were positive for dengue virus.
Their report was published October 9 in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and since then is being causing some controversy among those who don’t agree with one of its suggested approaches: introducing genetically modified insect species to the environment in order to face dengue propagation.
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