CPD: Dengue Fever
Although dengue fever is not found in the UK, it is widespread in many parts of the world including Southeast Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the Indian Subcontinent and Australia. The disease is caused by a viral infection that is spread by mosquitoes. Symptoms develop suddenly approximately 4 to 10 days after infection but are usually mild and subside within a week. More severe infection may present with symptoms such as severe headache, fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting and widespread red rash.
In rare cases, dengue symptoms can be very severe and may even be life threatening – this is often referred to as dengue hemorrhagic fever. Symptoms include persistent vomiting, vomiting blood, bleeding from the gums or under the skin, severe abdominal pain and swelling, breathing difficulties, fast pulse, drowsiness, loss of consciousness.
If dengue hemorrhagic fever is suspected, a patient should be advised to seek medical attention immediately. Those who have had dengue fever before are not immune to further infection as several strains are responsible for infection. Furthermore, those who have suffered from dengue before are at increased risk of suffering from dengue hemorrhagic fever.
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever although several steps can be taken to control symptoms. Paracetamol can be used as a pain reliever and antipyretic but NSAIDs should be avoided due to the risk of causing bleeding complications. Patients who present with symptoms of dengue fever should be advised to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
As is always the case, prevention is better than treatment and avoidance of mosquitoes will prevent any incidence of dengue. Two species of mosquito are responsible for dengue fever – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. They are most often found around stagnant water sources such as wells and are known to bite during the day, most often in the morning or early evening.
Insect repellants may be employed to prevent mosquito bites – those that contain 50% DEET are considered most effective but lower strength preparations should be considered for children.
Sleeping under a mosquito net and wearing loose clothing is also encouraged as mosquitoes have been known to bite through tight-fitting clothing