Dengue fever: what you need to know about the dengue virus

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Mosquito

Like malaria, dengue fever (dengue) is transmitted by mosquitoes. Although the symptoms vary from person to person, in some cases the disease can be dangerous and even fatal. Here you can read what dengue is, how to recognise the symptoms and what you can do about it.

What is dengue fever?

In warm, subtropical areas you run the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. This mosquito sometimes carries the dengue virus. When you are bitten by an infected mosquito, the virus enters your blood and you contract the infectious disease dengue fever. The disease is not contagious from person to person. Be extra vigilant for mosquito bites in the early morning and afternoon, because that’s when these mosquitoes bite the most.

Dengue fever does not occur naturally in the Netherlands. However, it is possible that after a long journey you take the dengue virus in your blood home with you and still become ill.

Forms of dengue fever

There are different forms of dengue fever, ranging from a mild to a severe variant. The risk of a serious variant is greater with a second infection with the disease. If you have already had dengue fever, it is extra important to pay attention!

Mild variant

Symptoms of mild dengue fever appear between one and seven days after being stung by a mosquito carrying the dengue virus. The symptoms are:

  • sore muscles
  • Skin rashes on arms, abdomen, legs and face
  • High fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting

The symptoms often last for a week and disappear on their own. It rarely happens that hospitalization is necessary for this mild variant.

Hemorrhagic fever

This rare form of dengue fever starts off mild and worsens after a few days. The first few days you will see the symptoms of a mild dengue fever. Later on, other symptoms are added:

  • Nosebleeds and Gums
  • Moist, sticky skin
  • Point-shaped spots on the skin
  • Blood in the stool
  • Small blood spots under the skin

Without treatment of this form of dengue, dengue shock syndrome can occur, in which patients go into a coma. With these symptoms, proper treatment is very important and it is important to contact a doctor as soon as possible.

Diagnosis

A blood test can show whether you have dengue fever. Do you not feel well during a trip and recognise the symptoms? Then have your blood tested at a hospital. If you have diabetes, are pregnant, or have previously had dengue fever, you are at greater risk for a severe variant of this disease and should see a doctor right away. Even if you are back from a long trip and you feel sick, let your doctor know that you have been to an area where there is dengue fever.

Therapy

Although dengue fever is very painful, in most cases it goes away on its own. A vaccine is being developed, but it is not yet available for adults. There is no specific drug to treat this disease. However, there are a few things you can do:

  • Use paracetamol against fever and pain
  • Do not use blood-thinning painkillers, such as acetylsalicylic acid, diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Drink enough. To prevent dehydration, you can take ORS (oral rehydration salts).
  • Do the symptoms get worse after 24 hours? Then go to a hospital.
  • Preventing Dengue Fever

The most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to avoid getting mosquito bites. You can take the following measures for this:

  • Wear clothes that cover your legs and arms.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net
  • Use an insect repellent with DEET
  • Leave the air conditioning or fan on in your bedroom.

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