Dengue fever is a painful and debilitating disease transmitted by mosquitoes caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses. These viruses are related to viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever. It is estimated that 400 million dengue infections occur worldwide each year, and about 96 million of them cause the disease.
There is no specific medicine or treatment for dengue fever. It can only relieve symptoms until the infection clears. Since the virus causes dengue fever, there is no specific antibiotic to treat it. Antiviral drugs are also not suitable for dengue fever.
For typical dengue fever, treatment aims to relieve symptoms and signs. Home remedies, such as rest and fluid intake (oral rehydration) are important. Pain medications such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as they may aggravate bleeding complications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and codeine can be used to treat severe headaches and joint and muscle pain (myalgia). Aspirin and related non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen should be avoided.
While recovering from dengue fever, drink plenty of fluids. You should call your doctor right away if you have any of the following signs and symptoms of dehydration:
- Decreased urination
- Few or no tears
- Dry mouth or lips
- Lethargy or confusion
- Cold or clammy extremities
Recovery from dengue virus infection can provide lifelong immunity against that specific virus serotype. However, this immunity only provides partial and temporary protection against subsequent infection by the other three serotype viruses. Evidence shows that continuous infections increase the risk of severe dengue fever. The time interval between infections and the specific virus sequence of the infection are also important. There are incidences where people consume crab soup and coconut water to replenish their electrolytes in the body in cases of dengue. There is no direct proof of that as a medication but it does help recover the patients and gives them the strength to fight the illness.
If you have contracted the severe form of dengue fever, you may need:
- Supportive care in a hospital: Patients that are admitted might need all-around care because they are bound with serious complications that might threaten their life. They can be quickly attended and appropriate treatment would be given to contain the symptoms.
- Intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement: Patients would likely to experience dehydration due to shock in a case of severe dengue fever. Thus this IV fluid is necessary to replenish the lost electrolytes. Uncontrolled dehydration would lead to multiorgan failure.
- Blood pressure monitoring: Patients would likely experience increased bleeding complications due to severe dengue fever. Thus monitoring the blood pressure adequately would prevent heart failure or damage.
- Transfusion to replace blood loss: This is required to control severe bleeding. Some patients would likely experience internal bleeding in the cases of severe dengue. Monitoring of the platelet is also needed because the levels of platelet are imminent in determining the severity of the patient
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites during the day. The mosquitoes that usually transmit the dengue virus usually live in and around homes and gardens. People should:
- Wear full clothing that covers the whole body well
- keep mosquitoes out of the house by regularly cleaning the house every now and then
- apply insect repellents and clear dark and left out areas around the house
- sleep under a net if you know there is mosquito infestation
- take extra precaution and clear the infested area if a family member is infected
There is no treatment for the dengue infection itself but the symptoms that a patient experiences can be managed.