Written by Kimberly Cannon, Staff Writer
A high fever, headaches, and pain all over the body sound like the symptoms of the flu, but if one is returning from a summer vacation in the tropics the Dengue virus could possibly be the culprit.
Dr. Ashley Brown, assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said that dengue is such a painful disease it is sometimes referred to as “Breakbone Fever.”
“There are four closely related viruses of Dengue,” Dr. Brown said. “These are called different serotypes, and there are serotypes one through four.”
The knowledge of these four types of Dengue viruses is important for understanding the progression of the disease, according to Brown.
Dengue is transmitted to humans by the bite of a Dengue infected mosquito, either Aedes Aegypti mosquitos or Aedes Albopictus mosquitos. Aedes Albopictus is found throughout Georgia and it’s an urban mosquito that prefers to bite humans over animals, Dr. Brown said.
The body’s immune system can typically overcome the first infection of the Dengue virus on its own, according to Dr. Brown.
“It’s only when you get infected with a second, different type of Dengue,” Dr. Brown said. “So if you initially have a Dengue-two infection, then you get bit by another infected mosquito that’s carrying Dengue-four, for example, that’s when you can get into trouble, and your Dengue Fever could progress to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever or Dengue Shock Syndrome.”
Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome can be fatal.
When Dengue Fever progresses to the more severe Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, the infected individual will experience severe abdominal pain, frequent vomiting, and hemorrhagic manifestations, which means the occurrence of bleeding such as bleeding under the skin or from the nose, and Dengue Shock Syndrome would cause one’s pulse to be weak and rapid, the Center for Disease Control said.
There is no cure for Dengue Fever or its more severe forms, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome, and so treatment is mainly for the purpose of managing the symptoms, Dr. Brown said.
Because there is no vaccine for Dengue, and the disease progresses upon secondary infection, prevention of mosquito bites is crucial.
Dengue is not native to the continental United States, but it is endemic in places like Puerto Rico. So when traveling to a tropical or subtropical destination, taking protective measures against mosquito bites is important.
Drain stagnant water, discard items that could hold stagnant water, like old tires, and wear mosquito repellent to prevent Dengue Fever, which could progress and be lethal.