Dengue: Why one must fear it?

Dengue: Why one must fear it?

Dengue. The word creates ghastly thoughts in one’s mind and, why not? It has serious consequences which can be fatal or lifelong. Many know Dengue causes thrombocytopenia (decreased platelet count), but not many know what it leads to?

Dengue virus causes destruction of platelets hence their number decreases. Platelets are an important factor for blood coagulation to prevent blood loss. When platelets are depleted, stopping bleeding is not easy. Apart from platelets the virus also damages cells of skin, mucosa, heart, brain, eye etc. The damage causes cell death or cell break down. As a consequence there is bleeding or fluid collection in various body pockets.

The virus is known to affect the cardiac muscles which when injured do not function optimally and as a consequence the heart pumping decreases. Many a times this injury recovers over a year but in some unfortunate few cases it becomes irreversible, and the person lives with reduced pumping for the rest of the life. It also affects the electrical circuits of the heart which lead to rhythm disorder (abnormal pulsations).

Similarly, the kidneys are also known to be affected causing acute renal failures. Many times, renal affection is self-limiting but kidney involvement can be fatal. Other documented rare complications are permanent loss of sight due to eye involvement, progressive paralysis (GB syndrome). The virus is known to cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus. So, pregnant women should be very careful.

Here are some signs and symptoms along with some preventive tips that you can watch for:

Fever for three to seven days

Intense headache and pain behind the eyes

Muscle and joint pain

Loss of appetite

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Skin rash

Bleeding, usually from the nose or gums

Preventive measures for Dengue:

Clothing: Reduce the amount of skin exposed by wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks, tucking pant legs into shoes or socks, and wearing a hat.

Mosquito repellents: Use a repellent with at least 10% concentration of diethyltoluamide (DEET), or a higher concentration for longer lengths of exposure. Avoid using DEET on young children.

Mosquito traps and nets: Nets treated with insecticide are more effective, otherwise the mosquito can bite through the net if the person is standing next to it. 

Door and window screens: Structural barriers, such as screens or netting, can keep mosquitoes out.

Avoid scents: Heavily scented soaps and perfumes may attract mosquitoes.

Camping gear: Treat clothes, shoes, and camping gear with permethrin, or purchase clothes that have been pretreated.

Timing: Try to avoid being outside at dawn, dusk, and early evening.

Stagnant water: The Aedes mosquito breeds in clean, stagnant water. Keeping a track and removing stagnant water can help reduce the risk.

(The writer is Preventive Healthcare Specialist, Indus Health Plus)