Understanding Dengue: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

By Dr. Rajinder Kumar Singal in Internal Medicine

Nov 27 , 2023 | 2 min read


Dengue fever is a prevalent and potentially serious mosquito-borne disease. The history of dengue dates back to the 18th century, with outbreaks occurring across various tropical and subtropical regions, including Asia, the Americas, and Africa.

Dengue fever is a significant global health concern with potentially severe consequences. Being aware of the symptoms, causes, and preventive measures is crucial for minimizing its impact. Public health efforts, community involvement, and timely medical intervention play essential roles in reducing the transmission and effects of dengue. By adopting preventive measures, promoting awareness, and supporting research, we can collectively work towards a dengue-free future.

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?

Dengue fever manifests through a range of symptoms, often beginning with mild signs and potentially progressing to severe complications. Early symptoms may include:

Common Early Symptoms

  • Muscle, Bone, or Joint Pains

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • High Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Intense Pain Behind the Eyes

  • Skin Rashes

Severe Symptoms

  • Frequent Vomiting: Persistent vomiting, often accompanied by abdominal pain, can occur.

  • Bleeding Gums: Unexplained bleeding from gums and other parts of the body.

  • Abdominal/Stomach Pain: Severe abdominal pain can signal potential complications.

  • Intense Restlessness Or Tiredness: Severe fatigue and restlessness may indicate a worsening of the condition.

What causes dengue fever?

Dengue fever is primarily caused by the dengue virus, transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. The virus exists in four distinct serotypes, denoted DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3, and DENV-4.

How does the mosquito cause dengue?

Female Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are responsible for dengue transmission. These mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the dengue virus. Subsequently, they can spread the virus to healthy individuals through their bites.

Addressing the major causes of dengue

Apart from mosquito transmission, factors like rapid urbanisation, inadequate waste management, and global travel contribute to the spread of dengue. Climate change and variations in temperature can also influence mosquito breeding patterns and virus transmission.

What are the risk factors of dengue fever?

Several risk factors can increase an individual's susceptibility to dengue fever:

  • Lack Of Protective Measures: Inadequate mosquito control measures and lack of awareness.

  • Geographic Location: Living in or travelling to dengue-endemic areas.

  • Age And Immune Status: Children and individuals with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.

  • Mosquito Exposure: Frequent exposure to mosquito-infested environments.

  • Seasonal Variation: Increased mosquito activity during rainy seasons.

  • Travel In Tropical Areas: Visiting regions with high mosquito populations and dengue prevalence.

  • Previous Infection: A prior dengue infection can increase the risk of severe complications upon subsequent infections.

How can we prevent dengue fever?

Preventing dengue fever primarily revolves around effective mosquito control and public health measures.

Preventive measures

  • Mosquito Protection: Use mosquito repellents and bed nets to reduce exposure.

  • Community Measures: Community-wide efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.

  • Well-Screened Housing: Properly screened windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry.

  • Wear Protective Clothing: Covering exposed skin to reduce mosquito bites.

Role of dengue vaccines

Vaccines against dengue have been developed to provide partial protection against the virus. These vaccines aim to reduce the severity of the disease and prevent hospitalization. However, their efficacy can vary based on factors like age, prior dengue exposure, and serotype-specific effects.

How is dengue fever treated?

Medical care primarily focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Possible treatment options for dengue fever are as follows-

  • Stay Well Hydrated: Adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration, especially during high fever.

  • Get Proper Rest: Sufficient rest helps the body recover and fight the infection.

  • Take Acetaminophen Or Paracetamol: Acetaminophen and paracetamol help control fever; avoid aspirin and ibuprofen.

Follow-Up With Supportive Care: Regular medical check-ups and monitoring to address complications prompts.