Dengue Fever – Symptoms and Preventions

Edited version published in Pakistan Observer on Oct. 26, 2010

While dengue has existed since decades in many parts of the world in various forms, the killer disease emerged as a major health concern in Pakistan for last few years, and especially after the heavy floods in Pakistan, the disease has been witnessed on an alarming level.

As a nation, we have been in the habit of shoving off even hazardous issues until they reach a height which cannot be ignored. Only then we take corrective steps and preventive measures. Same is the case with the deadly viral disease which regularly surface almost every year but the concerned authorities have failed to come up with any comprehensive preventive plan to face deal with this fatal disease.

According to the World Health Organization, Dengue fever kills 22,000 people, mostly children, each year. Dengue usually found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, is a major health issue in South Asian countries now.

Dengue fever – Situation in Pakistan

According to the Infectious Diseases Journal (2005) the first outbreak of dengue in Pakistan was reported as early as in 1994, although it has existed in Pakistan for a long time, without identification.

During the dengue fever spree in the country this year, sixteen people have so far died of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Pakistan over the past two months as the number of people infected with the virus rose to 1,841 in the country.
According to an official of Ministry of Health, out of 3,853 suspected dengue fever cases, 1,841 were positive but the number was likely to rise. The official disclosed that Sindh has the highest toll of confirmed dengue fever patients as 1,382 cases tested positive in Sindh. Punjab is next after Sindh, where the number of positive cases has reached 248 in Punjab. While the number of positive dengue cases is 101 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, five in Azad Jammu Kashmir and 105 in Islamabad.

Symptoms of Dengue

Dengue fever is one of the most common mosquito-borne infections with flu-like symptoms and can sometimes cause potentially lethal complication called dengue haemorrhagic fever.
Symptoms of the dengue may include fever, joint pain, rash, severe headache, pain behind the eyes and nausea. People with the more severe form of the disease i.e. dengue hemorrhagic fever may experience breathing problems, bruising, bleeding from the nose or gums, and circulatory system breakdown.

Dengue is preventable

According to Khalid Mahmood Randhawa, District Officer (Health) Rawalpindi, “Dengue is both preventable and manageable. The risk of complications is in less than 1% of dengue cases and, if warning signals are known to the public, all deaths from dengue can be avoided.”

Precautionary Measures for Dengue virus

It is time tested that prevention is better than the cure and hence by adopting few measures we can minimize the risk of dengue to a great extent.

According to medical experts these measures to protect from spread of dengue are as follows:

  • Wear protective clothing especially long-sleeved clothing and socks.
  • Use insect repellent and coils.
  • Employ mosquito netting around sleep and lounging areas.
  • Avoid going out at night and just before dawn.
  • Coolers, flower pots, cans, eats should be emptied or covered all the time and cleaned on regular basis.

Treatment for Dengue fever at initial level
Most people believe that there is no treatment or vaccine to recover from acute form of dengue, but early detection and prompt treatment can substantially lower the risk of developing the syndrome into a severe killer virus.

Experts have suggested the following measures to control this infection:

  • Infected persons with dengue fever should take rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Keep up oral intake, especially of oral fluids and/or, oral re hydration salts to prevent dehydration.
  • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids should be avoided.
  • In cases where patients are unable to take fluids, Intravenous fluid supplementation (IV drip) is given.
  • A blood transfusion may be recommended for patients with severe dehydration.
  • It is important that patient should be treated by medical professionals, so that the patient can b properly monitored and cured.
  • One spoon honey mixed in lukewarm water thrice a day was prescribed as precautionary measure for dengue virus by Hakeem Qazi MA Khalid, Secretary General Council of Herbal Physicians Pakistan.

Bottom-line
According to health experts, many dengue cases go unreported as dengue’s first attack is self-limiting and patients do not go to hospitals unless there are severe manifestations such as external or internal bleeding and this turns the disease into fatal one because a doctor can diagnose dengue fever only by performing a blood test and that process may take 6-10 days.

Senior Director of Capital Development Authority’s Directorate of Health and Services Dr Hassan Urooj said that the season of dengue and malaria starts with the season of monsoon and that stagnant water is common breeding grounds of mosquitoes. However, with the advent of winter and fall in temperature, the disease along with the mosquitoes is expected to die down soon.

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