Also called bone-breaking fever, it is transmitted by mosquito bites
Dengue is scary in Argentina, where over 40,000 cases and 39 deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the year. And, as Matteo Bassetti points out, “unfortunately it is also spreading in Europe”. Also called bone-crushing fever,”it is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes of the Aedes genus (the same ones that also transmit the chkungunya, Zika and yellow fever viruses), infected by one of the four viral serotypes (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4). It is a febrile disease that affects infants, children and adults with symptoms that appear 3-14 days after the infective sting”, reads the Ministry of Health website. But what are the symptoms?
It is a febrile illness that affects infants, children and adults with symptoms appearing 3-14 days after the infective sting. Bites from infected mosquitoes cause severe flu-like illness and sometimes a life-threatening complication called severe dengue, previously known as dengue hemorrhagic fever. First recognized in the 1950s during the dengue epidemics in the Philippines and Thailand, severe dengue affects countries in Asia and Latin America and has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death in these areas between children and adults.
Timely clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by properly trained physicians and healthcare professionals increase patient survival. The incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold in the past 50 years. There are currently an estimated 50-100 million infections each year in over 100 endemic countries, putting nearly half of the world’s population at risk of infection.
A person infected with the dengue virus experiences a low-grade fever to a disabling high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and skin rash. The clinical features of this disease vary according to the age of the patient. Dengue should be suspected when a high fever (40°C) is accompanied by two of the following symptoms:
pain behind the eyes
muscle and joint pain
Symptoms usually last for 2-7 days.
Severe dengue is a life-threatening complication due to plasma leakage, fluid buildup, breathing problems, severe bleeding, or organ failure. It mainly affects children. The warning signs to observe, and which occur 3-7 days after the first symptoms, together with a drop in temperature (below 38°C), are:
severe abdominal pain
shortness of breath
blood in the vomit
The next 24-48 hours of the critical phase can be lethal; adequate medical care is required to avoid complications and the risk of death.
There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Patients should consult a doctor, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Any form of pharmacological self-treatment should be carefully avoided. In particular, some antipyretic drugs (acetylsalicylic acid – aspirin and ibuprofen) must be avoided, which, due to their action on blood clotting, could favor the appearance of haemorrhagic manifestations (petechiae) or determine their aggravation. Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever and joint pain.
For severe dengue, medical care from doctors and nurses experienced in the effects and evolution of the disease can often save lives. Maintaining circulating fluid volume is central to such care.