Dengue fever is a disease that can be expected to occur every year in our country. This is because our tropical climate favours the growth and existence of mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the disease. The mosquitoes that often lead to transmission of the dengue infection are the female Aedes mosquitoes. A mosquito is said to be an infected one when it bites humans that already have dengue virus circulating in the body. The way the virus spreads to other humans is through the bites of the infected mosquitoes that releases the virus into the body. This cycle of transmission is considered fast which makes dengue a rapid mosquito-borne viral disease compared to other viral diseases.
Do you know that you can get dengue fever more than once in your life? Dengue virus exists in 4 serotypes, which are DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4. When a person is currently infected with one serotype, the body is only able to produce antibodies towards future infection caused by that one specific serotype. This means that in future, when a person is infected by dengue virus from other serotypes, the body is unable to ward off the infection. The worst part of getting reinfection by other serotypes is the likelihood of experiencing severe dengue compared to the first episode of dengue fever. For instance, a person is likely to suffer severe dengue such as Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) and Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) when infected by the DENV-2 after the first infection of serotype DENV-1.
A person experiencing dengue infection often presents as a fever that lasts for 2 to 7 days. This type of fever often comes with other symptoms such as severe headaches, skin rash, muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia) and pain behind the eyes (retro-orbital headaches). If you are noticing yourself or someone you know experiencing such symptoms, do seek medical advice immediately. Since dengue symptoms may be confused with other medical issues, it is best to meet doctors for the right diagnosis and treatment.
There are no specific treatments for dengue fever. What is provided by healthcare providers acts as a support. This includes making sure the patient takes a good rest, stays hydrated and to spot warning signs. Warning signs such as sudden abdominal pain, presence of blood in stool, persistent vomiting that last for more than 24 hours or more than 3 times a day, vomiting blood and sudden bleeding such as from the nose and gum, should get the patient to the emergency room immediately as this could be sign of severe dengue. In most mild dengue cases, sufficient rest and hydration should help a person heal. Usage of pain killers and drugs such as paracetamol to reduce fever is common in dengue patients and helps to control symptoms.
Here lies the question of can one treat dengue with antibiotics? No, antibiotics should not be used to treat dengue cases. Hence, never self-treat yourself with antibiotics as improper use of antibiotics may bring more harm than good. Besides, dengue is caused by viruses while antibiotics work by killing bacteria. There is no space for antibiotics to have an effect on the dengue viruses. Although you may see doctors prescribing antibiotics for some patients, this is done to help prevent secondary infections that are possible with hospitalised patients.
The best way to not get dengue fever is to take preventative measures. Using insect repellent, covering the skin from exposure to the mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothes and making sure your surrounding is free from mosquito breeding places could help lessen the risk of getting dengue. Any enquiries regarding dengue should be addressed to healthcare professionals.