Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted to humans through the Aedes mosquito. It is worth noting that not all of the mosquitoes are able to transmit the disease. Only female and infected ones are able to spread the dengue virus to other humans. A mosquito is said to be infected when it bites a human with dengue virus already circulating in the blood of the human body. Dengue fever is common in our country Malaysia. Evidence shows that there is an increase of more than 200% dengue cases in the first two months of 2023 alone with at least 15 dengue-related deaths. In Malaysia, dengue tends to peak around May to September during the dry southwest and November to March of rainy northeast monsoon seasons. It is even predicted that this year may be the peak of a major outbreak for dengue fever.
The question now is, is Malaysia where the most outbreaks of dengue occur? Malaysia is certainly not the only one with dengue outbreaks. Most outbreaks of dengue occur in Asia. Asia represents 70% of the global diseases for dengue. If you are talking about the highest rate of dengue fever, Nicaragua and Brazil have among the highest number of dengue cases with 1445 cases and 1104 cases respectively, per 10 000 population. In Southeast Asia alone, it is 18 times more likely to contract dengue compared to the American region. This shows that even though most outbreaks of dengue occur in Asia, countries in the Americas and Africa are also among the common regions with dengue cases.
However, despite the high number of dengue cases, the symptoms of dengue itself are not present in 80% of the population that has been exposed to dengue virus. This means that most people do not have any symptoms or just have mild ones. Common symptoms of dengue fever include fever that lasts for 2 to 7 days, headaches especially with pain behind the eyes (retro-orbital headaches, muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia), vomiting, nausea and skin rash. It is important for those with any of the dengue symptoms, even mild ones, to get checked by a doctor for dengue infection.
Some people may think they already heal from dengue when they find themselves disappearing from the dengue symptoms on the 3rd to 7th days. This is actually known as a critical phase. Critical phase lasts for 24 to 48 hours. It is at this time that people may fall into severe dengue and life-threatening events. Hence, it is best to get checked by a doctor whenever even the dengue symptoms are mild so that healthcare professionals can anticipate if a person may be in critical phase and be provided with immediate medical support should there be any unforeseen danger to health.
There is no cure for dengue. This is why it is necessary for those with dengue symptoms to get checked by a healthcare professional. Treatment available aims to support patients’ wellbeing and to alleviate the symptoms. Fluid replacement therapy and prescriptions of paracetamol are common to treat dengue. Paracetamol in hospitals may be given through injection or intravenous instead of tablet or liquid to help patients take the medicine easily. In most cases of mild dengue, patients are allowed to stay at home and make sure to drink plenty of fluid until they feel better. However, signs of dehydration such as unable to drink as usual or possible severe dengue such as nosebleed or bleeding gums, sudden severe abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, vomiting more than 3 times in 24 hours, vomiting blood, presence of blood in stool and fatigue, this should be signs that the person need to get to emergency medical care.
It can be concluded that most outbreaks occur in Asia. This fact alone shows that people should know dengue symptoms and know what to do when they suspect themselves with dengue. Dengue disease should not be taken lightly no matter how mild the symptoms are. Since there is no cure for dengue, it would be wise to prevent as the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”. Taking preventative measures can help reduce the chance for dengue and to protect those vulnerable such as the elderly and babies. Below are steps you can take to prevent dengue:
1) Collect and dispose of unwanted containers that could hold water. Common household items that are able to hold water and often overlooked are old tires, plastic containers, vases and buckets.
2) Clean plant pot plates by scrubbing thoroughly once a week. This can eliminate the mosquito eggs from continuing to live.
3) Should you have a water container such as a water reserve in the bathroom, do add in larvicides according to the recommended dose. Make sure to change water and scrub the inside for at least once a week.
4) Use aerosol insect repellent to kill adult mosquitos. You may also want to use mosquito coils or electric vapours in the room.
5) Sleep or take a nap in bed surrounded by mosquito nets.
6) Use special medicated locations that help to keep mosquitoes at bay.
7) Always wear full-sleeves clothes and long dresses to minimise skin exposure towards mosquito bites.
8) Whenever possible, avoid living or staying in heavily-populated residential areas.