Dengue is an insect-borne viral infection caused by the dengue virus. It is most commonly contracted in the humid and warm (tropical and sub-tropical) regions in the world. Being a viral infection, it spreads very easily and fast through yellow fever-mosquitoes as they are the carriers for this virus. If a person has contracted the infection, it takes around 3-14 days for the symptoms to be seen and observed. Dengue can be life-threatening if severe symptoms are shown by the patients while most people only depict mild to moderate symptoms of the infection.
Early signs of dengue are as follows:
- High fever
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Skin Rashes
Later (severe) symptoms of the infection are listed as:
- Bleeding from nose or gums
- Bloody diarrhea
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Decreased platelet count
- Seizures in rare cases
While one can identify the condition based on the signs seen, it is important to even know the reason or the cause of infection. Following is the list of risk factors and reasons/ causes of dengue fever:
- Dengue virus is the primary cause of the infection.
- Mosquito bites are the second most important cause as they act as carriers to the virus
- Sanitation can be also regarded as a cause since the unhygienic condition, poor environmental conditions pose a high risk of infection
- An immunocompromised person is also at a high risk of getting any type of infection
- Patients who tend to travel to areas where the infection is common
- Patients who have had a prior dengue infection are also at risk of getting a relapse of the infection
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The infection can be only confirmed after a set of tests are performed. Testing is used to determine whether a person with signs and symptoms and recent exposure have been infected with the dengue virus.
Following two types of dengue tests that are performed:
- Molecular testing (polymerase chain reaction, PCR)- it is a type of test which detects the genetic material of the dengue virus in blood within the first week after symptoms appear (fever) and can be used to determine which of the 4 serotypes of the virus is causing the infection. Molecular testing is recommended within one week of the onset of symptoms to detect an acute infection. A positive result from a PCR is considered conclusive. A negative PCR result is followed by antibody testing. One type of Real-Time RT-PCR test can detect dengue and the two other mosquito-borne viruses, Zika, and chikungunya and distinguish between the three.
- Antibody tests-It is a type of test which is primarily used to help diagnose a current or recent infection. They detect two different classes of antibodies produced by the body in response to a dengue fever infection (IgG and IgM). Diagnosis may require a combination of these tests because the body's immune system produces varying levels of antibodies over the course of the illness. IgM antibodies are produced first and tests for these are very effective when performed at least 7-10 days after exposure. IgG antibodies are produced more slowly in response to an infection. Individuals who have been exposed to the virus prior to the current infection maintain a level of IgG antibodies in the blood that can affect the interpretation of diagnostic results. The following table shows results that may be seen with antibody testing:
After the symptoms and the tests confirm the presence of dengue infection, the doctor recommends the following medications to manage the infection since there is no specific and targeted treatment for the infection.
In moderate cases, fever-reducing (pain-killers) is prescribed to the patients while in severe cases; an IV drip of saline is administered to maintain the body’s electrolyte levels along with other medicines.
Medicines play a part in treating the infection; however, food also helps in recovering from the infection. Following is the list of foods which help in dengue treatment:
- Broccoli- it helps replenish the platelets in the blood
All these foods work by replenishing the lost nutrients and vitamins in the body thereby helping in recovering from an infection