With about half the world’s population living in areas at risk, there are millions of cases of dengue reported each year. Dengue is most common in areas such as Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the western Pacific Islands. Dengue is a virus and is spread to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes species (Ae. aegypti or Ae. albopictus) mosquito. Once you are infected with dengue, you can only treat your symptoms as they appear.
Most people who become sick with the dengue virus should experience a full recovery within a week but it can be a very serious situation for others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “approximately 100 million people get sick from infection, and 40,000 die from severe dengue.”
Dengue is caused by one of four related viruses and are labeled as dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4. This means that one person could be infected as many as four times with a dengue virus during their life. Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) divides dengue viruses into 2 different categories.
The first category is called “dengue with or without warning signs” and the second category is “severe dengue“. About a quarter of people who get infected with dengue will end up getting sick with symptoms and roughly 1 in 20 cases of dengue will lead to the infected having severe dengue.
Similar to other viruses, mild symptoms of dengue include a rash, body aches and pains, nausea, and a fever. These symptoms typically last from 2 – 7 days and most people who are infected will recover fully in about a week. But, sometimes these symptoms can go from mild to very severe within a few hours.
Within 24-48 hours after your fever has cleared is when “severe dengue” can develop. If after your fever is gone you experience any stomach pain, vomiting, bleeding from the nose or gums, or feeling fatigued or irritable, it’s important to seek medical assistance. Severe dengue is considered a medical emergency and should be treated as such. If your symptoms are left untreated, severe dengue can lead to internal bleeding, shock, and even death. A blood test is the only way to confirm dengue. Since dengue is a virus, there is no specific cure or treatment plan for dengue but your symptoms can be treated.
Once it’s been determined that you are infected with a dengue virus, it’s important to seek medical help so that a healthcare provider can assist you and help appropriately treat your symptoms. With treating the mild symptoms until the infection is gone you should start to feel better after about a week.
But, it could take a few weeks for your body to feel normal again and for all of the symptoms to clear. As with any virus, seek medical help if your symptoms do not improve.
Since there is no cure for the dengue virus, it’s important to take preventative measures and lower your chances of contracting the virus. While there will be a vaccine available in the future, it will not be for everyone right away and it’s important to take other preventative measures. The WHO stresses that like any other virus, the vaccine on its own in not an effective tool to reduce dengue in areas where the virus is common.
In addition to the vaccine, like other mosquito carried viruses, you can help yourself by wearing protective gear, sleeping in mosquito tents, and using insect repellents that have been proven both safe and effective. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered insect repellents that are labeled for use to protect against mosquitoes, these often include ingredients such as DEET.
When planning your travels, it’s essential to discuss with a travel health specialist the countries you’ll be visiting to see which vaccines will provide the health assistance you need. Dengue prevention can help reduce the number of cases in an area and help lower the millions of infections that occur each year.
Schedule your pre-travel consultation with a Passport Health specialist today by calling or schedule online now.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing projects. Her site can be found here.