Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus, which exists in different forms. The latter is spread to people by an insect vector: the mosquito. Different species of the Aedes mosquito transmit dengue fever to humans. Being a mosquito-borne disease, dengue fever is mostly found in tropical areas.
Who can get infected with Dengue?
Basically anyone can be infected by the mosquito, from children to adults. Babies and young children are, however, more prone to experience the more severe forms of dengue fever.
Mode of action of the virus
Infection occurs when an Aedes mosquito carrying the dengue virus bites a person. What happens during a mosquito bite is that the latter releases its saliva onto the person’s skin so that the blood it is sucking does not clot, hence sticking it to the person (pretty gross, yea). While delivering its saliva during the bite, the virus gets into the system of the poor victim. Once on the inside, the virus finds its way into white blood cells and it begins to multiply. The body’s immune system therefore initiates an immune response to protect the body from the viral invasion; the person experiences fever as a result of the processes going on during an immune response. Fever is actually a good sign in the sense that the body is working to protect itself. However, this comes with pain and all the uncomfortable sensations one has during fever.
It gets complicated if a severe form of the disease is affecting the person: in this case, other organs get infected. The blood pressure of the infected person drops, and the platelet production capacity of the body diminishes, hence leading to bleeding.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
- Rapid development of fever
- Muscle pain
Dengue fever may become severe, as in its hemorrhagic form. If untreated, it may lead to death. The symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Mild bleeding of gums and nose
- Difficulty in breathing
Symptoms may start appearing 3 to 2 weeks after the mosquito bite.
Immunity against Dengue
Infection of dengue fever does lead to immunity. However, since the virus exists in different strains, this implies that one only becomes immune to the one particular type of virus which infected one before. If a certain strain of the virus gets into a person’s system who had previously been infected with another strain, he will undoubtedly experience dengue fever all over again, whereas a person being infected by the same type of virus more than once will produce an immediate immune response to rid the body of the pathogen, such that the person will not fall ill again.
Treatment for Dengue
Intravenous fluids are taken. Sometimes, oxygen therapy may be necessary for those who experience shock during the evolution of the disease.
Prevention against Dengue Fever
Prevention is always better than cure. Several ways to avoid being infected by the Aedes mosquitoes exist. Basically, the same precautionary measures for diseases spread by mosquitoes are effective; most of which have one thing in common: avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Using mosquito nets, repellents, getting rid of accumulated water all can help avoid being infected.