The dengue virus life cycle; you may think, haven’t we had enough? News outlets and other social media platforms are filled with news about the COVID-19 pandemic that has been continuously infecting millions of people all over the world. Have you had enough of diseases caused by a virus? Sadly, this is not the only viral disease that we face at the moment.
Some countries, like Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines also combat a deadly virus – dengue. Are you familiar with this virus? Let us know a bit more about this disease, and the transmission and life cycle of the virus, so we can stay informed about how we can prevent and treat ourselves and loved ones who get the disease.
Dengue is known as a viral infection brought to humans by a vector. This vector is a mosquito called Aedes aegypti or albopictus. Once you get bitten, this causes flu-like symptoms. Sometimes, unfortunately, the health indications could show a potentially deadly problem known as severe dengue.
Dengue: By the Numbers
- The occurrence of dengue fever has amplified to about 30 times over the last 5 decades.
- Doctors believe that patient numbers went up to about 50 to 100 million cases annually.
- Over 100 endemic countries suffer from this health scare. The existence of this virus puts almost half of the world and its people at risk.
- There are four dengue virus serotypes transmitted by mosquitoes, the DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4.
- If one mosquito carries a specific serotype, causing you to have dengue, and you recover, you can get immunity from that specific serotype. However, you are still vulnerable to the other three. And more often than not, the second, third, or fourth dengue infection is more lethal than the first.
Dengue Virus Life Cycle: Symptoms
Same as with other viral infections, dengue also has flu-like symptoms at first, and they last for 4 to 7 days. Their severity depends on your immune function and if the virus is detected early. Flu-like symptoms typically manifest about 4-10 days after your mosquito bite. Patients primarily complain of:
- Fever, moderate to high, with chills
- Headache, moderate to severe
- Unexplainable eye pain
- Joint and muscle pain
Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever
If your symptoms progress, you may expect that the virus will cause more discomfort, leading you to seek professional help. These symptoms may last for 2 to 7 days, including
- High fever
- Low back pain
- Tender and swollen lymph nodes
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Bleeding disorders may be present (easy bruising, blood in urine, gum or nose bleeding, etc.)
If these symptoms are present, it is best that you seek medical care as soon as possible, so urgent care gets delivered. If not, a more serious form of the viral infection called dengue shock syndrome may occur.
Dengue Shock Syndrome
Dengue shock syndrome may manifest as a late stage of the infection. A patient may show signs and symptoms like severe abdominal pain, disorientation or confusion, low blood pressure, bleeding, and persistent vomiting. If left untreated, it can cause death.
Dengue virus life cycle: Detection, Treatment, and Management
As the virus enters your body through a mosquito bite, the incubation period or the time starting when you had your mosquito bite up until you feel your first symptoms can last for 4 to 10 days. This means that you may have the virus for one week now before your body show symptoms of the disease.
It may be one of the reasons why detection of the dengue virus became challenging in the earlier days since mosquito bite marks do not last that long. And for a patient living in a tropical country, mosquitoes are rampant, and getting bitten is but ordinary.
How to Detect Dengue?
Medical professionals can assess and diagnose dengue infection using a blood test that determines the presence of the virus and the antibodies your body has developed for it. Before this, a comprehensive medical and travel history taking would show clues regarding your exposure to the mosquitoes, prompting your doctor to add the dengue virus as a possible culprit.
If you notice feeling sick during or after traveling to a tropical paradise, report this and let your doctors know. Information about your whereabouts for the past 2 to 3 weeks prior to your discomfort may help your doctor in evaluating the likelihood that your symptoms were rooted in a dengue viral infection.
Treatment of Dengue
Because dengue fever comes from a virus, there is no specific treatment or cure that can address it. Viral infections are typically self-limiting. What doctors do is to tend to the symptoms present in the patient so that complications will not arise.
To ease discomfort and fever, doctors may prescribe antipyretics and safe pain relievers, like paracetamol or acetaminophen.
Dehydration can come from having high fevers for days. Excessive vomiting present in dengue hemorrhagic fever or late stages of the infection can also cause dehydration. Increased water intake, intravenous therapy, and intake of oral rehydration salts (ORS) may help. In the worst cases, patients may have blood transfusions to prevent this complication.
Dengue Virus Life Cycle:Prevention and Risk Management
You may have heard that Sanofi Pasteur developed Dengvaxia, a live attenuated vaccine that combats the four serotypes of the dengue virus. Approved by the European Union in 2018 and FDA in 2019, Dengvaxia became the first vaccine that gave immunity to previously infected individuals so they would not contract second or third dengue infections.
The problem with Dengvaxia arose from the Philippines in 2016, where more than 700,000 children and 50,000 adults were vaccinated regardless of their exposure to the Dengue virus. This led to several complaints due to the presence of complications, even death, to those seronegative individuals who received the vaccine.
The WHO then published its recommendation in 2018 stating that patients who have not been infected by the Dengue virus should not receive Dengvaxia. Moreover, the US approved the vaccine as an effective preventative measure for patients whose age ranges from 9 to 16 who has previous exposure to any of the 4 dengue virus strains.
Since no vaccine is available for the general public as of the moment (TAK-003 or DENVax has just been approved in March 2021 by the European Medicines Agency), the best thing we can do lies in our own hands. Here are things that we can do to prevent getting infected by the dengue virus.
- Use mosquito repellent lotions and sprays as indicated.
- If traveling to countries with dengue fever outbreaks, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to cover most of your skin or body.
- Do not wear too much fragrance as this may attract mosquitoes
- Do not go camping near still water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in those areas.
- Avoid outside activities or lounging outside early in the morning or late at night.
The virus gets passed on when a mosquito bites an infected person, then goes to bite another one. So, the best way to avoid getting infected by the dengue virus involves the prevention of mosquito bites. Eliminating breeding grounds of mosquitoes in your area can lessen your chances of getting the virus.
Door and window screens
Install these to prevent mosquitoes from coming in and out of your house.
As much as possible, use your ACs to prevent mosquitoes from staying in your house.
Eliminate stagnant waters
Flower vases, man-made ponds, pots and cans that collect rainwater, pet water dishes, and so many others may contain clean but still waters, the type that mosquitoes see as perfect breeding grounds. Removing these will reduce your chances of encountering dengue-infected insects.
In areas where dengue infection is prevalent, community cooperation and participation remain to be the key element in fighting against the virus. Environmental cleanliness is as important as early detection of the disease, and it is up to us if we really want to eliminate such a deadly viral infection.
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